Weekend rain in California resulted in mixed outcomes for California growers

There was plenty of rain in parts of California over the weekend as moist air from the tropics was driven into the Bay area and northwards last Friday into Saturday. Some places received up to 6 inches of rain which caused moderate flooding on several river systems as well as the closure of Yosemite Valley for a day. 

No impact on cherries, nut growers enjoy soaking
Growers in the Sacramento valley generally had 1 to 2 inches of rainfall. This area is home to many cherry, apricot and nut growers and in general, they were pleased with the rainfall. There was no disruption reported as the rain came at the right time for these commodities, and also on the back of dry conditions. The only outcome might be a minor delay in the start of harvest for cherries and apricots.

"This weekend's rain had no impact on cherries," commented Ralph Santos of El Camino Packing in Gilroy. "The rain and cold a few weeks ago did hurt us as it came at a time when the cherry trees were pollinating, but this past weekend's rain was welcome."

Map of rainfall areas and amount. Image: NWS San Diego

"At this time of year, the rain is very good for us," said Kurt Groteguth of Ronald Martella Farms, a nut producer based in Hughson. "The great thing was that it was a deep soaking rain, one which came at just the right time. In the winter months, during December and January, the plants are dormant and therefore any rain has little effect at that time. But now we are in spring, and the almonds are just coming out into their jackets, while the walnuts are about to pollinate."

Groteguth added that significant rain fell in the hills above the valley, filling up reservoirs. "Rain is forecast on and off for the next 10 - 12 days which is ideal," he said. "Reservoirs are filling which is very important for irrigation as well as water for the community in general. The only thing we have to do is to apply spray to prevent fungal rot, which is very normal after any amount of rain. But we much rather do that than be without the rain." 

Mixed outcomes for Salinas, Watsonville growers
Further south, the major growing regions of Salinas and Watsonville also experienced plenty of rain, albeit in varying amounts. The rain was very localized, from a couple of inches in the north of this region, to negligible just 60 miles away at the other end of the Salinas valley.

For lettuce growers, the major issue they had revolved around harvesting, with the rain resulting in a slight delay in getting into the fields. "It was a strange storm," explained Jason Lathos of Church Brothers Farms. "Most of the rain fell close to the coast to about the middle of the Salinas valley. Further south, there was not much at all, which meant growers there felt no effect. The only issue we faced is getting the product out of the ground. It presented very tough conditions for the harvesters, who had to wait for several hours to get into the fields. Once in the fields, they had to deal with muddy and cold conditions. From a product movement perspective, it did not cause much impact, with production only slightly down compared to a regular weekend."

North California strawberries affected
Strawberry production felt the worst effects, with growers in the process of cleaning up. As the rain was localized to the more northerly growing regions, the level of impact felt varied depending on the region. Oxnard and Santa Maria, which are approaching their peak seasons, saw no rain and volume continues as normal. Fields in Salinas and Watsonville however, are expected to see an amount of damaged fruit. Volume has not picked up entirely for the season yet though, so growers are predicting a push back of harvest rather than devastating losses.

"The Salinas and Watsonville areas picked up close to 3 inches of rain in spots," said Scott Blazer, of Blazer Wilkinson. "We can't get into the fields at the moment to assess the damage, but it will most likely cause a delay in the harvest as we will spend a bit of time cleaning up and stripping back plants of damaged fruit. Salinas is set to come into some good volume but that will now be pushed back. Most of the volume is currently coming out of Oxnard and Santa Maria. They did not have any rain this past weekend and we're seeing some good volume and quality coming out of these areas at the moment. This is expected to continue throughout the season, well into May."

For more information:
Ralph Santos
El Camino Packing
Tel: +1 (408) 848-4269

Kurt Groteguth
Ronald Martella Farms
Tel: +1 (209) 883-4819

Jason Lathos
Church Brothers Farms
Tel: +1 (831) 796-1058

Scott Blazer
Blazer Wilkinson
Tel: +1 (831) 455-3700

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