From the Fields® - November 8, 2017

By Joe Colace, Imperial County diversified grower

We are in our lemon and grapefruit harvest in the Imperial Valley. We have been very pleased with the quality of all our crops. The fall melons are some of the nicest that we have ever had. There was one storm that hit us in September that may have affected setting to a degree, so we don't have quite the heavy crop. But we have been free of insect pressure, and the weather for the most part has been dry and warm, and that is a very nice recipe for the harvest in the melons.

We have some fall corn that will start to be harvested later in November and then we start planting for the spring sweet corn and melons when we get to early December.

We also work with growers in the Central Valley and have been doing that for several years. It was a good year this year. There were a few periods where it got very hot and that tended to have a little bit of an effect on the quality of the melons. But once we got into September, the weather became more normal, and we were very pleased with the last five weeks of the melon harvest in the Central Valley.

We are doing well on the workforce. There seems to be more H-2A workers that find their way into certain crops and that helps to free up available labor. I think the balance is good right now.

The lemon crop in the lower desert is going to fall short in both size and volume from what they were predicting back in July. We all thought there would be a heavier crop, but the fruit seemed to struggle for size, which could have been the result of some very hot days that might have set the trees into a little bit of heat dormancy.

By Tom Coleman, Fresno County pistachio grower

We had our second-largest crop ever. It being an "off" year, we were generally pleased with the size of the crop, but the quality was not as good as we might have hoped for. It's the largest off-year crop the industry has ever had. We were a little disappointed with the level of insect damage. I believe it probably had to do with a little wetter spring than normal and higher population of navel orangeworm.

One of the things we'll be looking toward, and we've already started on, is working on orchard sanitation, removing mummy nuts in the field. We're working on doing soil amendment applications. We're getting started on pre-emergent herbicide applications and we have started mechanical pruning, hedging of trees. Once we get the foliage off the trees, we'll start hand-pruning the trees.

I think we're getting better at controlling the radical swings in production and in general doing a heavier pruning going into an on-year, which is what we're going into right now. If you prune a little heavier now, you'll offset your drop in production for the 2019 crop.

The market is strong. Prices look good. We're shipping at a little higher rate to both the EU and to China currently.

New plantings are continuing at a slightly slower pace than in past years. It's partially due to the lack of available, suitable land and people's concern about the groundwater sustainability act coming in. My advice to growers is to only buy property that's in an irrigation district, because at least you've got more than one possible source of water. We have about 240,000 bearing acres right now and about another 75,000 acres that are nonbearing. So that's quite a bit of nonbearing acres that's yet to come into production.

By Zack Stuller, Tulare County diversified grower

We just finished up harvesting walnuts. Things look pretty good. The Tulare variety was a little bit off. The Chandlers were OK; they're as projected.

On the citrus side, we started harvesting in the middle of October on the early lemons and picking the early navels. We're starting copper sprays, getting ready for the rainy season on the citrus. Lemons look average. On navels and mandarins, they look to be lighter than last year. Last year was an outstanding crop. The navels are pretty light this year. The quality is good. Even through last year's really rainy season, when brown and clear rot becomes an issue, we made it through just fine.

We finished up harvesting black-eyed peas at the beginning of October. We didn't make any money. The yield was a little lighter than projected. That's due to the cool spring we had and the hot summer. The vines grew a little bit too much and didn't fruit as much as what I would've liked in late May and June. July was just crazy hot, and the crop was stressed.

We also just finished harvesting our kiwis in the middle of October. All our vines are young, but quality was good and yield was over what we projected.

We're going to start pruning our kiwis and our nuts as soon as the vines and the trees go dormant. We're going to continue pruning all winter long. With citrus, as fields are harvested, we'll prune those. We pick citrus all winter long, so as it's harvested, we prune each block.

By Rien Doornenbal, San Joaquin County dairy farmer

The weather has really cooperated with us this fall. Harvesting corn for silage finished up in September. Planting of the winter forage crop finished up last week. Compost for bedding has been made, dried, piled up and covered. Woodchip bedding has been put out in the open lot corral. We're now hoping for a very wet winter again.

This summer, we had a lot of days that the temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. We lost some milk production. Certainly, it wasn't as hard on cows as in the heat wave of 2006.

We did not expect milk production to rebound as well as it has this fall. Other dairymen are telling me that they also have rebounded from the heat quite well. We're actually back up to slightly more production than we had a year ago on a per-cow basis.

Milk cows normally go down in production in the fall because it's more challenging to maintain production, but we always have to compare our production to the same season in the previous year. We can't compare our fall production to our spring production, because by nature cows produce more milk in the spring. We call that the spring flush.

In the meantime, we are hoping the Quota Implementation Plan that dairymen are voting for passes. That will allow the industry to take a good look at the final rules the U.S. Department of Agriculture will propose for a federal milk marketing order for California. Hopefully, the final proposal will be good for dairy producers.

By Tom Ikeda, San Luis Obispo County vegetable grower

After a cool first half of summer and then a normal second half, crop quality was good and supplies plentiful. This created marginal to poor prices during the summer for most vegetable commodities.

With the recent hurricanes in the South and Southeast, there was hope that the unfortunate misery of others might create opportunities for California growers. At this point in time, there may have been a slight bump in prices due to these adverse weather events but we are still waiting to see if damage to young crops or delays in planting will have an effect on prices.

More recently, an extended heat wave—with San Luis Obispo County breaking temperature records as well as being the hottest place in the country—did burn many of our more tender-leafed crops, such as spinach and leaf lettuce. Younger plants may grow out of the damage, and we should still be able to harvest them.

In some crops that were ready to harvest, there was significant damage. Also, due to the increased frequency of irrigation at that time to try to keep the crops cooled and hydrated, there seemed to be an increase of rot due to the warm, humid conditions.

On the brighter side, we did see a spike in prices for some commodities such as iceberg lettuce, spinach and broccoli.