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  • Almond growers anticipate another record as harvest begins

    Aug 22nd, 2017

    The harvest of almonds in California’s Central Valley is off to a late but abundant start as growers bring in an anticipated record crop.Tehama Angus Ranch in the northern Sacramento Valley started shaking trees about two weeks ago, and now nearly all of its Nonpareils are off the ground, farmer Eric Borror said.“Our yields are probably just a little better than last year,” he said. “It’s not a bumper crop but a decent crop.”

    Nearby, Red Bluff grower Tyler Christensen said he is seeing “decent” yields after getting off to a late start because of weather.“I think more than anything, (the challenge is) just keeping everything under control with all this heat,” Christensen said. “We’ve been irrigating a little heavier. We came off the drought and thought everything would be a little easier this year, but we’re still having to irrigate more.”

    Growers in the Golden State expect to harvest 2.25 billion meat pounds this year, a more than 5 percent increase from the record-setting 2016 production of 2.14 billion meat pounds, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.The average nut set per tree this year is 5,714, down 7.2 percent from the 2016 crop, reports the NASS office in Sacramento. But bearing acreage is expected to reach 1 million-acre mark this year, up from 940,000 acres last year, according to NASS.

    This year’s crop has been resilient amid weather extremes. Winter storms and cold weather extended the bloom in February and March, then growers had to prevent damage from heat as Central Valley temperatures have soared well into the triple digits for several stretches this summer.The Nonpareil harvest proceeds as orchard ground preparation has continued around the state for later varieties, according to NASS.

    The anticipated record crop comes as shipments have so far kept pace with production. The industry capped off a big shipping year at the end of July, as domestic shipments and exports were up 14 percent and 17 percent, respectively, for the 2016-17 crop year, according to the Almond Board of California.The shipments have helped prices stabilize in recent months after a price slide that began in late 2015, with prices falling by nearly half from the more than $4 a pound that was paid for some almonds during the 2014 crop year.

    “The price is holding steady, and steady is good,” Borror said. “It’s the knee-jerk reactions that are a problem.”With harvest underway, the Almond Board is reminding growers of its recommended management practices for reducing dust. Such practices include starting with a clean orchard, planning the route to avoid extra passes, going low with sweepers but not too low, using wire tires and trying slow speeds and fans, spokesman Kyle Kapustka said.

    “Almond harvest is a dusty business and dust impacts all members of the community, including growers, workers and neighbors,” Kapustka said in an email.The board put out a series of videos and held workshops last summer to offer tips on controlling dust.Agricultural industries have placed a greater emphasis on dust management as the failure of much of California to meet federal ambient air quality standards has prompted increased scrutiny from regional air boards.