Central California - March 31, 2014
This report covers conditions and observations made between Monday, March 17 and Sunday, March 30, 2014. The next report is scheduled for Monday, April 28, 2014. 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 developing nuts of the Aldrich in the Tracy area of San Joaquin County, followed by an example of the degree of Non-Infectious Bud Failure visible in many Carmel plantings this year, in this case in the Turlock area of Stanislaus County. Our final image shows the larva of the Oblique Banded Leaf Roller feeding on a small Nonpareil nut in the Gustine area of Merced County.
Generally clear skies and above normal temperatures yielded to wet, cloudy conditions in the second week of the period as a series of storms brought much needed rain to the central region. Daily maximum temperatures rose gradually during the period, rising from the mid and upper 60’s reported on Monday, March 17th to upper 70’s and lower 80’s noted on Monday, the 24th. Temperatures then took a sudden turn to the upper 50’s and mid 60’s over the final days of the period as storm clouds swept over the region. Morning lows exhibited a bit more consistency, ranging predominately between the upper 30’s and upper 40’s, with warmest readings reported at the end of the period under the moist, cloudy skies.
Rain began falling in the San Joaquin and northern Stanislaus County areas late on Tuesday, the 25th, with heaviest amounts reported falling on Wednesday, the 26th and Saturday, the 29th in all areas of the region. While official reports placed rainfall totals between 0.5 and 1.1 inch, scattered thunderstorms dropped additional amounts in isolated areas of the region. Hail was also reported falling in the Ballico and Winton areas of Merced County on the 26th. However, while the accumulation of hail was impressive, growers have not reported suffering serious damage.
The crop in the central region has been developing rapidly under the influence of the above normal temperatures the region has experienced since the start of the 2104 bloom. As the tree’s leaf cover has grown, nuts that were not adequately fertilized have withered, died and have been shed from the trees in all varieties. The crop is now in the latter stages of the differentiation process wherein those nuts that the trees are not able to support to harvest are being sequestered and are about to be shed from the trees.
Observers are reported very little evidence of infectious disease in the region’s orchards, owing to the generally good weather conditions and grower’s efforts to protect the crop. However, the recent rains have increased the potential for fungal infections and growers are monitoring their plantings closely. The potential for Scab and Rust is greatly increased by the rain and given the fact that the effective materials for control of these diseases are preventative, rather than curative, growers must apply any treatments for control prior to infection. Growers with plantings of the Fritz variety must be particularly vigilant this year. Infections of Bacterial Scab on the Fritz variety were quite serious in many plantings last year and growers have been diligent in sanitizing their orchards to reduce a source of infection.
As shown this report’s second photo and as noted in our last report, Non-Infectious Bud Failure
Observers have also noted infestations of Oblique Banded Leaf Rollers in plantings around the region feeding on the developing nuts. The eggs of this insect are laid amid the small nutlets allowing the larva to feed on the nuts shortly after hatching. Some growers have found colonies intense enough to warrant control and have been forced to treat their orchards.
Water remains the prime production consideration for all in the region. Calculations using data available from the California Irrigation Management Information System, CIMIS, show that the orchards are currently consuming approximately from 0.5 to 0.75 acre/inches of water per week. Consumption will increase in the coming weeks, amplifying the need for irrigation. While the recent rains have provided a small amount of relief, primarily by delaying irrigation or two, growers in northern areas of the region have been also encouraged by talk of their districts possibly benefiting from additional runoff needed to increase storage levels in their reservoirs.
While producers in the San Joaquin Irrigation District, which serves the Escalon, Manteca and Ripon areas are expecting full allocations of water for the 2014 growing season, those in other districts are facing significant reductions in the amount of water available from their normal sources. The Modesto Irrigation District has increased its expected allocation from 18 inches to 24 inches. Normal allocations are in the range of 36 to 40 inches per acre. Deliveries from the Modesto District are expected to start on April 9th, while deliveries from the Turlock Irrigation District are scheduled to begin April 3rd, with growers there limited to 20 inches.
Farther to the south, growers in the Merced Irrigation District have been informed that they will receive only 6 acre/inches this year and that first deliveries will not be available until April 21st.
Allocations from the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project remain at zero. However, allocations to the Central California Irrigation District, the San Luis Canal Company, Firebaugh Canal Water District and Columbia Canal Company, collectively known as the “Exchange Contractors” serving areas along the west side of Stanislaus, Merced, Madera and Fresno Counties have been restored to 40% of contracted amounts. These district’s superior water rights have provided growers there with some relief, benefitting from a relaxation in Delta pumping restrictions made possible by the runoff from the recent rains.
Producers in areas facing limited supplies have been scrambling to secure water from alternative sources, where they are available. Prices for available supplies of water have already reached as high as $2,200 per acre/foot. Many with lands normally planted to annual crops will not be farming those fields this year, opting to transfer the water from fallowed lands to their orchards. Some have even mentioned intentions to rent open or unplanted land solely for the purpose of acquiring access to the land’s water allocation. Many will be dependent on ground water from private wells, particularly those in the Merced Irrigation District. Some growers have already noted impacts from groundwater with high pH levels, which have reduced vigor and caused a yellowing of the tree’s foliage as nutrient availability becomes reduced due to the elevated pH.
Current weather at the National Weather Service
Photos: Mel Machado, 3/31/14
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