From the Fields® - July 24, 2019

By Greg Panella, Lake County pear grower

We're actually looking at a pretty good Bartlett pear crop this year—probably an average crop tonnage-wise, real clean fruit and things are moving along quicker than normal, due to the somewhat mild weather we've had this summer. So, the fruit is maturing a little quicker than we thought. I'm probably going to start picking around Aug. 7, which is only one day earlier than last year. It's supposed to heat up, so that might slow things down.

I think labor's going to be a little bit tight at the beginning of the season. It is going to overlap with the river's picking season and probably Mendocino's. At the end of their season and at the beginning of ours, it's going to be a little tight labor-wise, but I think it's going to open up after that.

We have a good crop to deliver, so it all depends on the market.

By Jim Spinetta, Amador County winegrape grower

We just finished our Amador County Farm Bureau annual barbecue with 270 members at the Amador Flower Farm. From among the plethora of farmers, ranchers, volunteers and partners in ag, I was able to extrapolate this report:

The walnut growers in our foothill region state their crop looks smaller, with larger hulls.

After last year's record quality winegrapes, it is no surprise that this year's crop is about 15% below average yield. Given the above-average precipitation and cool mean temperatures, the light crop should expedite winegrape photosynthesis.

With the increase of seasonal agritourism, agri-entertainment and agri-education with the 60 wineries in our premium region, demand is up for quality winegrapes. Grapes will soon be coloring up, and the ritual of canopy and irrigation management will be winding down in preparation for harvest 2019. Cheers to a quality crop.

By Joe Colace, Imperial County diversified grower

It has been very warm for the past several days, with temperatures of about 112 to 115 degrees, so all of the harvests have been completed. Now, the ground is being prepared and heavy tillage is being done for the fall and winter crops.

We know that at this time of year it is going to be very hot. The latter part of July and August are called the dog days of summer. Then the weather starts to change in September.

Our spring season was positive, because May and June were cool and the quality of our crops was very positive. Pricing was OK—not great, but not bad. Overall, we were very pleased.

Labor continues to be a challenge, though in our area we tend to be a little better off because of our proximity to the border. We are pleased about where we are as a growing district.

In the spring, we have all the different melons—cantaloupes, honeydew, watermelons and variety melons—as well as sweet corn. It was a nice season for our onion crop. Our citrus crops were harvested in April and early May. Lemons will start up again on the first of September. Germination of our leafy greens and crucifers will begin in September.

By Jennifer Beretta, Sonoma County dairy producer

We are in full swing of irrigation. The wet winter put us back on getting cows out on grass and our silage cut. We cut silage in late May and the beginning of June, which was later than most years.

We have changed up some of our grazing methods, using lead wires and smaller fields to graze harder. We have held some tours for our milk company and enjoyed interacting with the teachers and students.

I am busy attending meetings such as the Cattle Council and will be headed to California Farm Bureau headquarters in Sacramento for the Policy Review Committee and the Young Farmers and Ranchers summer meeting.

By Laura Gutile, Madera County pistachio grower

I have been growing pistachios for about 17 years. My personal crop is off a little bit, but it is still strong.

This is an off-year throughout the pistachio sector. Pistachios are an alternating crop. Last year was a nice "on" year and it was a bountiful harvest for us. This year will be down a little bit from 2018.

Harvest is usually in September. We don't have labor issues at the present time.

Pistachios are mechanically harvested using two machines. We borrowed the technology from the plum industry. Pistachios are shaken into a canopy that funnels them into a bin or hopper. Once the nuts are harvested, they go to a huller first, and then they go to a processing plant where they are dried and roasted. We are selling some natural, not roasted, but most are roasted.

I am part of Horizon Nut Growers Co-op, so our market is mostly overseas in the European countries and Japan and a little bit in East Asia. The pistachio sector is definitely expanding.

By Jim Ferrari, San Joaquin County walnut and cherry farmer

Cherries went horrible. We didn’t pick any. We tried shaking some, but it is an older orchard that doesn’t allow the shaker to shake the trees without substantial damage. We tried pulling them off with the spray rig and they wouldn’t come off. Now they are raisining up and dropping. Other growers around here have shaken them, but we shook a few and gave up on that.

The earlier walnut varieties are a little bit on the lighter side. Even though we’re diligent in our applied sprays, with all of the rains, there’s a pretty substantial drop in yield because of blight. Later varieties are pretty nice. I don’t know about statewide, but here in Linden, the Chandler and Tulare varieties look pretty good.

We finished the worm spray and people are starting to apply mite protection sprays. Trees are using a lot of water so we’re irrigating pretty good. We’ve avoided any sun damage so far. We haven’t had any days over 105 degrees. We usually put an aerial application of a whitewash and haven’t done that yet.

For some mysterious reason, the walnuts are huge in size. Walnuts grow from bloom until about July or a little before, and all through June the weather was cooler, so the trees had more to give to the walnuts instead of trying to keep themselves cool. More of the energy went to the walnuts. The walnuts are really big. It’s nothing that we did culturally, it is just Mother Nature.

The bulk of everything is Chandlers, so as long as the Chandlers are good we are fine. Everything looks good for pricing; we are hearing that prices will be up substantially. The walnuts seem to be at least a week to 10 days late. So, we probably won’t start harvesting walnuts until at least Sept. 25.