“It’s half a year’s rain in three days.”
So says James Shanley of Shanley Farms in Morro Bay, CA of the rain and storms that California saw in the latter half of last week. “All of it is very welcome. The recharge this represents is phenomenal,” adds Shanley. “When you get a rain like this, the root systems of the trees have been on irrigation for an inordinate period of time. Now instead of irrigation systems throwing water where it will and the trees and root systems having to develop to mine that particular resource, they can mine other resources in other areas because the water is coming from the sky and going everywhere.”
At Friend's Ranches in Ojai, CA, Emily Ayala agrees the need for water was great. “Bring it on—we’ll take more,” she says. “Our main reservoir, Lake Casitas, has been between 30-45 percent full for more than a decade. We have no outside water coming into the Ojai Valley. Our rain is our only source and we’ll take what we can get.”
Shanley Farms grows finger limes and James Shanley anticipates the rain to add to fruit size.
“We need the rain in California”
The positive response speaks to the dry conditions California growers went into the storm with. “We need the rain in California. Particularly, we want to increase the snowpack in the Sierras,” says Bianca Kaprielian of Fruit World Co. Inc. in Reedley, CA.
The conditions were so dry that some were concerned over losing wells in the spring and summer. “It’s a testament to how dry we really were that the ground could just take it. I have seven different culverts on the property that I would have expected to be screaming and they were never more than a modest little flow,” says Shanley.
The interruption that the rains offered to crops seems to be minor as well. “It has potential to disrupt our harvest schedule. But we work to pick ahead of the storm and/or adjust which region we’re harvesting in,” says Cherie France of Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA. “We have production in all three growing regions of California and typically can avoid the effects of the rain by transitioning to another region not as impacted by the storm.”
Kaprielian agrees. “We planned ahead of the rain so our supply has not been interrupted. It looks like we had a nice harvest window on Sunday and will today before the next expected rain on Tuesday,” she says. “That should ensure we continue to have plenty of fruit available to ship until the orchards are dry enough to harvest again.”
"We have no outside water coming into the Ojai Valley. Our rain is our only source and we’ll take what we can get,” says Emily Ayala of Friend's Ranches.
Little to no damage
While to date, it looks like there’s little damage to the crops, Ayala notes that at least in the Ojai Valley, it was already dealing with past wind events. “There was one in early December which defoliated the northside and the tops of many trees. Then again in early January,” says Ayala, noting that there was wind scarring on the navel crop.
While Shanley says he’s only done an early tour of his and neighboring orchards, the damage looks minimal if any. “There’s some fruit down on the ground with avocados but it’s modest compared to the amount that you would expect from a three-day violent storm,” he says.
As for the fruit itself, Kaprielian notes at this point in the season, she sees the rain not having much of a negative effect on the fruit. “There is always the threat of clear rot with the fruit staying wet for a prolonged period of time. But we have adequately treated our organic and conventional orchards so they can withstand the water without impacting quality,” she says.
“The trees themselves will get extra nutrition and water and it will definitely add to fruit size and on an individual basis to trees,” adds Shanley.