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From the Fields® - June 28, 2017

By Bruce Fry, San Joaquin County winegrape grower

We are initiating the first irrigation of the year. We want to make sure we have enough water in the root zone for the grapes since they didn't have any irrigation earlier. We put on some fertilizer applications and insecticides through the drip system. We aren't doing any fungicide applications; we will wait until all of this heat passes and then assess what we may need.

We are keeping the water going on all the grapes. Once you get behind on drip irrigation, you can't catch up, so you have to make sure you are where you need to be. It's all about irrigation.

It is a quiet time in the vineyards because of the heat. Employees are going home early, working only 5 or 6 hours. They are getting short hours.

As far as crop level, it is a guessing game and it is hard to do. But you have a gut feeling. Chardonnay looks the lightest out of all the varieties and is definitely below average. All of the whites look to be on the lighter side. The reds look normal, but it doesn't look like anything is above normal. When it gets so hot, the vines shut down, just like a human being who doesn't want to do anything other than sit in the shade. The vines just close off.

Last year's harvest was an early harvest and I think this year will be closer to a normal starting time in the middle of August.

By Roger Everett, Tulare County citrus grower and beekeeper

It is one of those blessed years with all of the moisture and now we're catching the curse of it where we have an overabundance of water and we don't have the systems in place to handle it. There is flooding along the Kings River near the Fresno-Tulare county border because of snowmelt and lack of storage.

As for the bees, our bees on our mountain locations are not doing as well as we'd like. The buckwheat is blooming and hopefully it picks up. We are waiting on some other plants to hopefully backfill that forage. We are in the mountains and the hills this year because there is moisture for those plants so that we have the opportunity to get out of the valley and potentially make a honey crop. And we have bees in the Central Coast.

A problem is the heat, which starts to dry the moisture out of those plants and shut them down. But we do need some heat. We'd like to see it between 85 to 95 degrees because you have plants that are kicking out nectar that make it work.

If it gets too hot, the bees are more concerned with cooling and chasing water and those plants dry out. If it is too cold, plants won't produce any nectar; they need a little heat to produce the nectar.

If it gets too hot, too long in the high desert, then we're going to have to move back to the valley to irrigated agriculture to catch the feed from those plants, or just bring them closer to home so they are easier to feed.

We're still doing seed alfalfa pollination in Imperial, watermelon pollination in Kern and vegetable seed pollination in the Salinas Valley. Our watermelon bees are just starting to make a little bit of honey, but it is from nearby cotton as opposed to the watermelons themselves. If there is cotton or alfalfa in the area, we'll be able to make some honey off of the bloom.

Citrus is done. We have navels and some lemons. Those crops aren't looking too bad. Bug pressure is a little bit heavier than last year, but that is expected with the moisture that we've received. We're looking at probably a light crop again this year. We don't know for sure. We're behind; we should have run that out of the boxes, but we just haven't got to it yet.

By Blake Mauritson, Tulare County citrus grower

The 2016-17 crop has been modest, but price and demand have seemed to offset that. We have been finished with lemon harvest since February and completed navel varieties in April. We are about halfway through valencia harvest.

Lemon harvest yields were a little down, and so were navels. Size has been an issue this year with navel and valencia varieties. Our gut feeling is the lack of winter and spring rainfalls in the past few years has caught up to us.

The 2017-18 crop is on the trees and looks promising. Time will tell what this heat wave will do to the crop. My instincts tell me it won't make the crop bigger. Everyone is putting on water as fast as they can to make up for the heat, and it is a good thing, because the reservoirs are filling fast with snowmelt and there is a conserved interest to keep water in the basin.

Pest and disease pressure has been fair from a grower's standpoint, but with the heavy rains this year, weed pressure has been a little higher. We have been treating for red scale and will be getting our count cards back soon. Hopefully, we have done our job.

The deadline for establishing Groundwater Sustainability Agencies for the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is fast approaching and is a hot topic in Tulare County. Everyone is very concerned with what the fallout is going to be and how it will affect their operations.

By Chris Britton, Stanislaus County apple grower

We grow several varieties of apples, including Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady and Granny Smith. The crop is healthy, and size looks to be on pace to be about normal. We have experienced some heat in the past few days and we are taking measures to keep the fruit protected.

At this point, we have been able to keep the heat from causing too much damage by using overhead cooling systems. Fortunately, the drought is over and we have sufficient water.

There will be some damage, I'm sure, but at this point we think it will be kept to a minimum. That being said, if this continues for several more days, we will see long-term harvest issues.

We are in a wait-and-see mode at this point. Stay tuned.

By Kulwant Johl, Yuba-Sutter County tree crop farmer

We're getting ready for cling-peach harvest, which is about a week away. This heat is not good for the early peaches. When temperatures go above 95 degrees, 100 degrees, the peaches don't grow in size. Same thing with prunes. Prunes get sunburned.

Walnuts get sunburned with the heat. Walnuts, you spray with Sun-Guard to protect them. But peaches and prunes, you can't do anything. Only thing you can do is put more water and irrigate more often.

With this heat, peaches and prunes will ripen earlier. The fruit doesn't size, and peaches have to be a certain size for the canneries to buy.

There'll be damage on our prunes. Hopefully, this will not affect the later varieties. It will affect only the extra-early varieties.

For the walnuts and almonds, it's too early right now to see any damage. We'll see that at harvest. The nuts would dry up inside. The meat inside the nut would dry up with the heat.

Almonds can take the heat more than any other crop.

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