From the Fields® - June 19, 2019

By Steve Chinchiolo, San Joaquin County cherry and apple grower

We did have a nice cherry crop hanging on our trees, but then the weather took control. The rain put an early end to our harvest due to fruit cracking. When the sugars are in the fruit close to harvest like that and you get rain, that water that's absorbed through the skin causes the fruit to split. Usually the riper the fruit is, the more sensitive it is to that wetness.

The duration of wetness on the fruit when it's ripe like that caused most of the damage. We did run spray rigs through to try to blow the water off, but it seemed every time we blew it off, we got another rain, so it was hard to control. We had multiple events come through.

Now we're just letting the crop that's left on the trees wither and fall to the ground. The main thing now is just keeping the trees well irrigated during this current heat and trying to keep them out of stress, to help set the table for next year's crop.

Before the rain, we had picked just a small percentage of the crop, not even 5%. We just were getting ready to go, and then the rain occurred and another rain occurred. It got to the point where we were not able generate a pack-out that was worthwhile against our picking costs.

With apples, we've thinned the crop. It's a process we go through every year—hand-thinning the fruit down to reduce the crop load in order to develop a larger piece of fruit. We're also adjusting our codling moth spray on both the organic and conventional apples. All through the growing season, we're manually controlling our weeds on the organic blocks; that's an ongoing thing. Depending on the variety, most of the fruit is now a little bigger than a golf ball or tennis ball.

Our older blocks look like they have a pretty good crop. We have a couple of younger blocks that did not set well for one reason or another; I haven't quite figured that out yet. But our older blocks look to have a fairly good crop.

We're cautiously optimistic for our apple harvest, because it looks like demand may be good for organics at the beginning of our daily harvest. Harvest this year may be slightly later than last year, and last year we were a bit on the late side. I think timing of harvest will be similar to last year. We'll begin our daily harvest on Aug. 1 with Galas.

By Pete Bauer, Mendocino County livestock producer

I thoroughly enjoyed the cool, wet weather through the month of May. The rain actually afforded me some time to finish up a couple of shop projects that I wasn't sure I was going to get done.

It delayed the beginning of hay season and rained on some guys' hay, including some of mine. The rain wasn't enough to really demolish any of the hay that I had down. It will still roll up into a bale and it will still feed a cow.

Most of the calves are marked at this point. I have shipped the cull cows and I will have one lot of yearling steers go at some point. I have one more small group of calves to find and mark, and then it will be on to moving the cattle out to the summer ground. The feed out on the summer pasture looks great. The winter ground has some leftovers on it for fall when the cattle return.

Once the cows are out, I'll move into my summer projects. I have some fence to fix and some water tanks to install. Like everyone else in the state, I'm praying we don't get hit by fire this summer. All in all, I think spring (or summer) is off on the right foot.

By George Tibbitts, Colusa County rice grower

Weather-wise, 2019 has sure been a harrowing ride so far for rice producers in California, and, of course, for growers of many other commodities as well.

After the extremely wet winter we had, I was fearful that we would not be able to begin tractor work until May. But April brought excellent weather to dry out the fields, and on our farm we began tractor work on April 15th. I could have rushed and planted our first field in late April, but I like to wait until May for that, since the weather is usually more dependable.

That was a big mistake. Hindsight, of course, but as everyone knows, the month of May turned out to be one of terrible weather. Over 3 inches of rain during the month really hampered field work.

We were still able to get everything planted in May, but the cold and the wind that accompanied all that rain was hard on the rice seedlings. They simply stopped growing (but the weeds did not). Fortunately, the weather finally warmed up and the seedlings began to grow again.

Here now in mid-June, our rice stands are a bit thin in areas, and the plants seem a little less than what I would call robust. But ever the optimist, now that summer is really here, I'm hopeful that the plants will tiller out well and begin to take off.

In some areas, rice growers were not so lucky. There was rice still being planted well into June, which is far from ideal. Yield potential is reduced, and harvest will be late. Another problem I think we are all going to deal with is weed control. As I mentioned earlier, the weeds kept growing just fine during the cold May weather, giving them quite a head start on the rice. Our rice herbicides are really going to be put to the test this year.

By Bruce Fry, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

After the 3 inches of rain in May, we are trying to catch up on mowing, disking, spraying and suckering. Vineyards are growing nicely after all the rainfall last month. Haven't irrigated yet, just fertigated where needed.

A lot of old-vine zinfandel vineyards are not being farmed and are being pushed up into piles for removal. Sad to see, but it all comes down to economics. Speaking of economics, we are trying to mechanize what we can to lower our labor costs. So we invested/bought a mechanical suckering machine this year.

With both chemical and mechanical suckering, we can just about eliminate the suckering with hand labor. From our costs, it cuts out over $100 per acre.

The crop is variable. With the cool and rainy weather during bloom and set, I believe it affected crop size and bunch size to the smaller side. But who knows; we have two months till harvest, and we'll see what Mother Nature brings us.

By Dominic Bruno, Sacramento County farmer

What a spring—one of the wettest Mays on record in the Sacramento area, so wet that there was a time when I almost wished I was on the Westside or in Firebaugh.

Fortunately, our team was able to get all of our sunflower and safflower acres in, as well as a real strong start on rice. We were able to get a lot done in the brief period between the Sacramento River level dropping and the May rain.

The rain was enough to saturate fields that had been opened up and had groundwork done back to where they were when we started, mud.