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  • Almond harvest in full swing

    Sep 14th, 2017

    The fall almond harvest is in full swing on the West Side, with growers reporting increased yields from a year ago. The dust billowing from orchards where harvest crews are working, and trucks hauling trailers full of almonds from orchard to processors signal harvest time for one of the area’s leading commodities. The fall harvest season extends to a number of other crops as well, ranging from corn silage and tomatoes to walnuts and melons....among many others which help comprise the bounty of West Side agriculture.

    For almond growers, however, the late summer and early fall are typically the peak of the season - and this year is no different. “We are right in the heart of it,” Ray Henriques, a manager for Stewart & Jasper Farming Co., recently said of the almond harvest. “It is moving along relatively fast.” The harvest started a week to 10 days later than last year’s, said Henriques and Mike Crinklaw, a manager with Craven Farming Co.

    “We started Aug. 8,” Crinklaw reported Monday. “We probably have a good month before we are done.” Both farm managers reported increased yields over last year - which each attributed to water.“Production has been above normal for us,” Crinklaw stated. “The most important thing that helped us this year was the great winter. All the rains flushed the salt of out the ground, and got water down deep to the roots. You couldn’t afford to do what Mother Nature did with those rains.....and it was free.” Henriques said the almond yields are running about 5 percent better than last year. Growers in the Del Puerto Water District, including Stewart & Jasper, had a full allocation of irrigation water for the first time in years, he noted.

    “We were able to put on an adequate amount of water,” Henriques said. The growing year has not been without its challenges. Henriques said hot weather during harvest stresses almond trees. Growers are unable to irrigate as much as they would like because they have nuts on the ground.An emerging trend Crinklaw noted this year was a greater insect presence. “The insect pressure has been unbelievable. We have had to spray twice as much as normal, which I think is going to be a thing of the future,” he remarked. Crinklaw attributed that trend in part to “softer” materials being used in orchards, which do not control insects as effectively.

    The increasing almond acreage and concentration of trees is also a factor, he said. If growers don’t go back through after harvest to shake any remaining nuts from the trees and clean their orchards, Crinklaw explained, the nuts left behind harbor insects that over-winter, leading to infestations the following year. Almonds are not the area’s only notable nut crop.The West Side walnut harvest will begin in the next week or so, Crinklaw noted. That crop is also looking to be a little above normal in terms of yield, he said. Harvest activity is not limited to orchards, as a variety of field crops are coming in as well. Patrick Cerruti, president of Cerutti Brothers, said that the company wrapped up zucchini harvest a few weeks ago and now has tomatoes and silage corn coming in. “I think the crops are okay,” he told Mattos Newspapers. “They are average.” The harvest timing of many crops is running close to last year, Cerutti said, although zucchini was delayed due to the spring rains.