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From the Fields® - October 10, 2012

By Darin Titus, Glenn County diversified farmer

Boy, have we lucked out with the weather so far this harvest season. The last of the silage corn looks to be leaving the fields and the remaining corn is getting ready to be harvested for grain.

Rice growers are taking moisture sample cuts in the fields and they should kick off harvest shortly. Prune harvest wound down last week. It looks like size and tonnages are up and the quality of fruit has been above average.

Almond shaking should be coming to an end, with the final pickup expected this week, if this warm weather holds.

Our shell-out ratios have been well below normal, along with higher insect rejects due to the navel orangeworm pressure we were fighting during hull split.

The verdict is still out in respect to statewide nonpareil yields. We'll be keeping a close eye on the pollinator shell-out and reject levels. Hopefully, they fare a little better.

Early variety walnuts around the neighborhood are starting to hit the ground and final field preparations are being made to the Chandler blocks. Walnut growers are praying for a little shot of rain to help get a clean shake, but after last season, almond growers are hoping for a dry fall.

By Pete Belluomini, Kern County potato farmer

In the Arvin-Edison area, we're licking our wounds after a very soft summer in the potato market. But we're putting that behind us and moving on to fall. We've got our second potato crop in the ground and expect to harvest in December and January.

The winter crop got a late start, because extreme heat spells in August meant we held up planting and waited until the end of the month so the seeds would get a good start. We had runs of temperatures well over 100 degrees for a week to 10 days at a time, and the nights were unbearable.

So, we're a little behind with the new crop, but with normal fall weather we should be fine. The winter market should be better for the white and yellow potatoes. It's starting to strengthen a bit and we're hoping it will be strong enough to bring us some money.

Markets next spring and into next summer may be soft again. Oregon, Idaho and Wisconsin had big crops and there will be a lot in storage. We're just going to have too many dang potatoes. California is a small producer and the other states dwarf our production.

We hope our winter niche crops—whites, yellows and reds—do well. It's the russet potatoes that can be stored. For the most part, the varieties we grow are thin-skinned and don't store well. Sometimes, our small winter crops can hit a high spot in market pricing.

We also do some specialty potatoes, like the fingerlings. We have a full line of specialty produce and the price is more stable, but the markets are smaller.

Heading into the "mashed-potato" holidays, we're hoping prices will improve because people are at home, it's getting cold outside and football's on TV. Toward the end of October, people are looking for comfort food, clam chowder and turkey dinners, and potato prices tend to creep up.

By Kathye Rietkerk, San Bernardino County greenhouse operator

We've got a stellar crop of poinsettias coming on—more sizes and colors, beautiful trees. We call the taller poinsettias, 3-to-4 feet tall, with showy pompon heads, trees.

These tall varieties are used by high-end hotels and commercial indoor installations where property owners and managers want a big show with large floral accents, like the Ritz Carlton hotels or the Mission Inn in Riverside.

These poinsettias can transform a public space, making the ordinary into an extraordinary setting. We have orders from hospitals, business offices, major events, and individuals have been ordering through retailers.

People want their families and guests to have a good Christmas regardless of the economy and poinsettias are part of the celebration. We've got new varieties and colors.

We aren't growing for the chain stores. We grow a gift line, and that crop is coming along beautifully. Last year we sold out early, so we increased production this year to meet increased demand.

We're getting closer and closer to bloom and we've been hovering over the crop in the greenhouses. It's very exciting.

The Inland Empire offers a rigorous growing environment so the plants are stronger and heartier, which means they can last through the entire season without being replaced.

We'll begin shipping the week before Thanksgiving and ship to 10 Western states through mid-December, but the bulk of our sales are local.

Right now, we're hoping the weather cools down. We've had temperatures above 107 degrees, but despite the heat, we've been able to maintain crop quality. Now, we're hoping we'll have enough plants to make it through the season without selling out too early.

By David Schwabauer, Ventura County citrus and avocado farmer

It has been so hot lately, all we've been doing is running water. At the beginning of October, 95 degrees is pretty warm. So far, Santa Ana winds have been mild, but they've been bringing warmer temperatures and very low humidity.

We've been on a seven-day irrigation schedule for the past month, irrigating nonstop. Our crews have been troopers and they've adjusted their schedules to work a lot of overtime. This is one of those cases where our workers have responded wonderfully to seasonal demands and to Mother Nature.

Our lemon crop looks good. Volume hasn't been as high as we'd like, but less than perfect growing conditions have thrown us some curveballs. We're preparing to do a finish-up pick, but it won't be the volume of our other picks.

Our production numbers for avocados also were low this year. But the crop on the trees for next year looks good. We still face a long season of east winds and a long winter of cold, so there's a lot we'll have to get through before our next harvest.

Right now we're on pins and needles about wildfire conditions. High temperatures and low humidity brought on by Santa Ana winds means we're under a red-flag fire warning. We're crossing our fingers.

By Nick Short, Stanislaus County nut grower

Here in Stanislaus County, the almond and walnut harvests are in full swing. It has sure been an interesting year in the nut business.

Everything came on early, yet we are struggling to get the walnuts off the trees. In our Payne variety, we did a quick shake the first round and are going to do a second shaking in the next week or so. Walnut crops are looking strong, but it's too early to tell how the crop will do in the end.

We are finishing up our late-variety almonds this week and are happy we will be finishing harvest before Thanksgiving this year. The almond crop is looking good too, but may come in under the estimate.

If we face another dry winter, it will be interesting to see how everything sets up for next year. We have been able to apply some late-year fertilizers and irrigations, which will help us going into the beginning of next year.

The dairymen in the area have harvested their silage and are in the process of preparing fields for the winter crops. The cherry, peach and most other fruit growers have finished their seasons and are beginning their after-harvest tasks.

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