Central California - September 30, 2013
This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, September 2 and Sunday September 29, 2013. The next report is scheduled for Monday, October 28, 2013. However, in the event of any significant occurrences prior to that date, this site will be updated as soon as possible.
This report’s photos for the central region present the late maturing Fritz drying on the orchard floor in the Gustine area of western Merced County, a conditioner cleaning the windrowed crop west of Modesto and a ripper preparing a field for planting north of Oakdale, both in Stanislaus County. Conditioning is a relatively new practice that growers use to reduce the amount of debris mixed with the crop to promote drying in the orchards and decrease the number of days that the crop must remain on the ground after shaking.
The transition into the fall season brought significant changes in the weather affecting the central region. Daily maximum temperatures peaked early in the period, rising from the lower 80’s as the period began, reaching their highest values in the upper 90’s between the 7th and 9th of the month. Readings then gradually descended to well below seasonal norms, dipping into the lower 70’s in the period’s final week before warming slightly as the period concluded. Morning lows exhibited a bit more stability, ranging predominately between the low to mid 50’s to the lower 60’s. The seasonal transition was sealed by the arrival of a Pacific storm system that brought rainfall primarily to the San Joaquin and Stanislaus County areas on Saturday, the 21st, dropping from trace amounts to as much as one-half inch, with greatest amounts dropping from a particularly strong cell south of Modesto.
Harvest operations have progressed briskly in the northern San Joaquin Valley as growers completed harvesting the Nonpareil and moved on to their various pollenizers. However, operations were brought to a temporary halt by the arrival of the rain. Observers have noted that the region’s growers were not expecting significant rainfall and most had crop in various stages of harvest, requiring that they alter their plans to allow the crop to dry. Fortunately, while temperatures have been held to relatively cool levels in the days after the rain, brisk winds reaching 15 to 25 mph blew through the region, helping to reduce moisture levels in the orchards. Those receiving the lightest amounts of rain have begun sweeping and picking up their crop in the final days of the period, while others who received greater amounts of precipitation had to wait a few more days. As this report is being written, growers are sending shakers into the late maturing Monterey and Fritz plantings and are predicting that they should complete the harvest within two to three weeks, provided that favorable weather conditions prevail.
Growers are reporting that the quality of the crop harvested thus far continues to be quite good, with very low damage levels from both Navel Orange Worm and ants. However, throughout the region, the most notable characteristic has been the smaller kernel sizes reported in all varieties. Growers are reporting that yields of the Nonpareil have generally been running at better than expected levels. However, pollenizer yields have been much more variable, with most running slightly below the levels experienced in the 2012 crop.
Those growers who have completed their harvest have already begun post-harvest activities, with the first order of business being a deep, thorough irrigation. Research has shown that post-harvest irrigations are critical to supporting the differentiating flower buds and can have significant impacts on the subsequent crop. In the face of diminished supplies, growers along the west side have been saving water for this vital irrigation, while those in the Turlock Irrigation District are now facing the end of the delivery season on October 6th.
Growers who have completed their harvest have also begun pruning and applications of soil amendments, while those who are planning on planting new or replacement orchards have been preparing the fields, as may be seen in the third photo accompanying this report.
Current weather at the National Weather Service
Photos: Mel Machado, 9/30/13
Click an image to enlarge it