Following a weekend of heavy rains, California growers are saying that the effect is likely only moderate, if anything, on their crops.
Steve Johnston of GW Palmer in Salinas, Ca. notes that a few key growing regions in California—Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Maria and Oxnard—saw between .5 inches to rain to as many as 2.5 inches of rain. “So, in Salinas and Watsonville for example, just as we’re getting started to go, the weather comes in,” says Johnston. “It’s been doing that for the past three weeks now.”
Johnston notes before this, the region experienced a very dry February followed by March with cold and inclement weather off and on. “We’re back to square one again,” he says.
Waiting to dry out
That said, the effects on the crops are somewhat minimal. “The fields will have to dry out so they can get the trucks and people in to harvest. Then they’ll go back in and strip off any red fruit that might be suspect quality wise because it’s too wet,” says Johnston. “They’ll throw those away and clean it and hopefully, looking at the forecast for this week, by Friday and Saturday we should be back on time with good shippable fruit again.”
In all, the rain triggers a bit of a slower start for strawberries out of Salinas and Watsonville. “Typically, we’d be going well by the first week in April. But not this time around,” says Johnston. “Strawberries will just keep going until November.”
Thinning is temporarily paused at HMC Farms following the rains.
Watching for hail
Meanwhile on California stone fruit, Jon McClarty of HMC Farms in Kingsburg, Ca. says this time of year is a bit of a nail-biting time. “It’s the scariest time for stone fruit because rain could always possibly mean hail. That’s the biggest weather factor for us. Hail could wipe out a whole orchard in minutes,” he says.
While last year the region saw a wet May which pushed production back somewhat, this year, McClarty believes so far at least, the rain has caused hardly any impact. “We’re early enough to where just the moisture itself won’t have a negative impact. If it’s going to have an impact, it’ll be negligible,” he says. “It has just slowed down the ripening process a little bit. And we have to stop thinning for a little bit. We’ve been thinning for a week and a half, so we’ll just take a few days off from that and continue once the sky is clear.”
That said, McClarty notes that they will remain on watch for rain and possibly hail for the next five to six weeks.