From the Fields® - May 24, 2017

By Tom Ikeda, San Luis Obispo County vegetable grower

A very wet December, January and half of February created gaps in planting schedules and adverse growing conditions. This has resulted in spikes in prices due to short supplies.

For some crops, such as iceberg lettuce and romaine, prices reached unprecedented levels. If you were fortunate enough to have product at this time, you were able to cover the cost of some of the field that had no or reduced production due to the adverse weather.

The gaps in planting due to the wet weather will also affect the timing of our rotation to our second crop. This has also caused problems in working up fields to maintain our planting schedule. Some fields had to be tilled wet, which leads to compaction problems, poor aeration of the soil and poor seed germination.

On the plus side, the rains helped to leach the salt from the soil and replenish our reservoirs and underground aquifers, and may create spikes in prices throughout the summer.

By Daniel Bays, Stanislaus County diversified grower

Spring weather on the west side of Stanislaus County has been fairly mild with a lot of wind.

The cherry harvest in this area is beginning to finish up. Most growers were able to avoid any rain, which resulted in good quality. If cherry harvest is any indicator of the rest of the year, the availability of labor will continue to be a greater challenge for all crops.

Tomato planting is finishing up as well for most processing tomatoes. Growers have been blessed with mild temperatures for that as well, though it looks like things are going to warm up this week.

Lima bean planting is underway for farmers growing beans this year. Acreage appears to be down and seed is said to be in short supply.

Harvest of early-season apricots began about two weeks ago; processing apricots are on track to be ready for harvest around the middle of June.

The almond crop on average looks good, as do most of the walnut crops around the area.

There will continue to be fields left fallow this growing season, as farmers in the area were unsure of federal water allotments until mid-April, when planting decisions had already been made for many crops. This challenge was compounded with low commodity prices.

By Richard Mounts, Sonoma County winegrape grower

As far as vineyards go, it is hot and heavy as the vines are just starting to bloom. Our biggest concern by far is labor. We are continuing to struggle. I lost two guys and there are no replacements around anywhere. There is nobody coming in and the people who are here don’t want to work. I get somebody new and they work for one day and I never see them again.

The vines seem to be really happy with all the rain. I have one rootstock that doesn’t like it to be too wet, but as soon as the weather warmed up, they took off again.

There was a lot of concern about flooding along the rivers, but it had pretty much subsided by the time the vines started to grow. I look at the bunches, but I don’t do bunch counts per se because we’ve found that bunch counts don’t tell you very much. It is all about set.

We are just going into bloom now. Some varieties have started. Cabernet hasn’t really started yet, but zinfandel is about halfway through bloom. Fortunately, the weather is turning nice, so hopefully we will get a good set. Either they won’t fall off or they will fall off. You never know.

By Guy Rutter, Sacramento County beekeeper

Getting bees out of the tree crops was challenging this year because of the late rains. So right now, we are working on the bees and making up losses and getting hives ready for some summer pollination and honey production. We stay local for summer pollination, focusing on vine crops like melons and cucumbers and some seed clover. Then in the fall we do some pumpkins.

Once the bees made it past January, they were OK. Once they were able to pollinate the trees, they did great and we don't have any complaints in that respect.

I have been maintaining hive numbers. We wanted to see what was on the horizon because the drought took its toll on a lot of things over the past few years. We felt that a lot of the honey plants were not in abundance. So, we figured we would have a look-and-see position.

We had a lot of moisture, which was good, but it is still going to take a couple years or more to get plants back to where they used to be prior to the drought. This year, even though there was plenty of rain, a lot of plants passed their bloom period so they weren't going to bloom this year. So, when we get into a regular cycle again, if that ever happens, we will be able to do what we used to do.

The queen rearing this year also took a hit. This has to be done during a very narrow window, and because of the storms, we were getting maybe only about 50 percent take on queen mating. This means a lot of hives will be done later in the season. We've always tried to do it earlier, before it gets too hot.

A lot of the bees that came into the state are probably out of the state right now. But because the weather in those other areas wasn't conducive to bees, they weren't eager to get them out in a big rush. The crops that bloom where those bees go are also delayed.

By James Durst, Yolo County organic grower

With late rains and frosts this year, our asparagus harvesting season started about two to three weeks later than normal. Yields have been respectable, with excellent quality in March and April. We are hoping high temperatures can hold off for a while so we can pick up some later production in June.

We are finishing snap peas this week. We have seen more blight than usual in our peas due to high humidity and continued wet weather. But yields have been above normal due to good bloom set and excellent growing conditions.

We have been installing underground PVC and drip tape in new fields, and this was somewhat challenging with rain periodically every week. We should have this hooked up and operating about two days before transplanting is to begin.

Our fresh-market tomatoes are running about a week late, with speck and spot showing up in some varieties. We have been treating with copper, and hotter weather should diminish this fungus. We are staking and tying our first plantings.

Grain crops look excellent, with high yields predicted and fields relatively weed-free.

All our organic barley goes to dairies for feed. Pricing is a little lower this year.

It is refreshing to see district water canals full to the brim with plenty of water available this year. We were truly blessed by this winter's rains and we can all work with the consequences.