From the Fields® - November 4, 2015

By Luke Wenger, Stanislaus County nut grower

Harvest is finally over. The last two months have been very busy, with almonds finishing around the end of September and walnuts finishing at the end of October. The almond crop was down for the most part and the walnut crop was down just slightly.

The biggest issue with harvest this year was getting the nuts out of the trees. This year there were a lot of green nuts that seemed to take a long time to split. The green nuts actually came off the almond trees, but the nuts that dried too long stayed on the tree and the shakers had a hard time getting them off. In walnuts, the same thing happened and some fields we had to harvest twice.

Almond prices are still looking pretty strong, but walnut prices are not looking good at all.

With harvest done, our attention now turns to pruning and spraying. We are applying weed pre-emergent sprays and also applying nutrients to the trees, so that we can get them into the tree before they go dormant. The only thing that we need now is for the rain and snow to start coming.

By Sasha Farkas, Tuolumne County forester

I've been focused on timber thinning projects and want to get them done before the rain comes. But the sawmills have stopped taking logs for the season, which has changed my focus.

I will be doing some additional logging for another sawmill in the near future, but it depends on when the rain comes. After we complete as much as we can, we need to button up and protect access roads to reduce the potential for erosion.

Not all sites I'm working on have erosion issues, but I want to pay careful attention to those that do.

We've been doing a lot of brush clearing during the summer and fall for smaller landowners because of wildfire concerns. Other than that, we've been chugging along through the fall.

We're seeing a lot of bark beetle damage to trees and that's one of the reasons the mill stopped taking logs. They had a lot of timber from bug-killed trees.

In the wildfire burn areas in the foothills, people are trying to button up those areas, too, but with more than 70,000 acres burned in the past couple of months, it's hard to know where to start.

Land managers are looking for areas at the greatest risk and focusing their attention there.

Overall, it's been a pretty good year in our county. We had a lot of early summer rains, and that helped grazing conditions and the water supply generally.

By John Miller, Placer County beekeeper

Beekeepers are now bringing hives back from summer pastures in the Dakotas, Montana and Minnesota.

Some areas had good, sweet clover honey production; other areas missed the moisture. Hive health issues are front and center right now.

The Bee Informed Partnership is documenting the highest-ever Varroa mite counts in September. This is troubling.

The national honey crop was a little better; honey prices are lower. Internationally, Canada and Argentina are both marketing honey below U. S. honey producers’ costs of production. International transhipments of adulterated honey continue to plague the market.

Beekeepers and almond growers are beginning to visit about 2016 and beyond. Both groups look forward to winter rains.

The California State Beekeepers Association meets Nov. 17-19 in Sacramento. Soon thereafter is the Almond Research Conference, also in Sacramento. Both meetings are good for both beekeepers and almond growers.

By John Ellis, Kings County farm manager

Cotton harvest is finishing up and yields were down as expected for the 2015 crop. Lint quality is good, so we're happy about that.

Cotton acreage in California has been coming down in the past few years, especially in 2014 and 2015 because of the drought. Gins have been closing, but the company I work for has its own gins, so we haven't had trouble getting our crop processed.

I haven't heard about growers having trouble getting their cotton ginned in a timely manner elsewhere. I think there's enough capacity to get the job done.

The rainfall we had a couple of weeks ago slowed harvest in our area, but growers are back in their fields finishing up.

Walnut growers are harvesting Chandlers right now and it's an important crop in Kings County.

Walnut prices aren't helping growers out, but I understand yields are good.

Our processing tomato harvest has finished up. For cotton, we're chopping stalks and starting to do groundwork for planting in the spring.

A lot of farmers are planting wheat for spring silage and grain.

By Peter Bradford, Mendocino County diversified grower

We're still looking at inadequate rainfall and we're fast approaching winter. We're concerned about what that will mean if El Niño doesn't appear. A lot of our rangeland is in very poor shape because there's no water or grass for livestock.

We've had predictions in the past about big storms that never materialized, so we're cautious about what will happen this winter. In the meantime, we're trying to prepare our roads and forests in case we do have a wet year.

Lake County farmers are trying to recover from the Valley Fire. A number of Lake County Farm Bureau directors have been impacted by the fire, including loss of homes and crops.

The hopeful thing is the number of organizations that have come forward to help. We're hoping people will continue to come forward to lend a hand to fire victims in Lake and Calaveras counties.

By Mark McBroom, Imperial County tree crop farmer

We just finished up Medjool date harvest. We had a good year, good yields.

Our lemon harvest is happily under way and we’re about a third of the way finished. I expect we’ll be going until early February.

Our mandarin and tangerine harvests will be starting up in the next three to four weeks. We anticipate good crops coming off for that fruit as well.

The lemon market is promising. Demand keeps growing every year and market conditions are promising.

For Medjool dates, yields have exceeded our expectations and that market continues to grow.

Of course, the mandarins and oranges always have a reliable following. So generally, things look pretty good.

We’re also doing a little bit of planting, mostly lemons and seedless mandarins. But our new plantings have been reduced a bit because of the citrus greening threat.

With growing populations of Asian citrus psyllid in Southern California, we’re uncertain where the crop may go in the future, if we don’t find a cure. Right now we don’t have a cure, so it’s hard to make investments.

In the Imperial Valley, we’re planting lettuce and vegetables for winter harvest and crops will start coming off right after Thanksgiving. Alfalfa also is being planted right now.

We’re seeing more and more drip irrigation systems being installed as water sources are becoming increasingly limited. We want to be good practitioners with our resources, so there is a lot of conversion going on.