HMC News – January 2024

Planting has begun in our tree fruit orchards. Last fall after harvest, the trees were pushed out and the ground was prepped for new plantings. Once a field is prepped, we mark the planting locations of the new trees, as well as the irrigation and trellis infrastructure locations. We plant either by hand (shown below) or mechanically with a GPS tractor. After planting, the irrigation hoses are installed, and the trees are soaked in to remove any air pockets around the roots.

The 2023 California Table grape season is coming to a close with a 20% drop in grape volume from what was originally predicted in the early months of 2023. As 2024 progresses, we expect to see a similar overall crop reduction in volume from Peru as well. These two factors along with a historic drought in Panama, which is limiting daily crossings of vessels through the canal, have created a difficult environment for grape supply in the month of January. The northern growing regions of Chile have started stronger than last year but are still in small volume and later than pre-season forecasts had originally indicated. We anticipate the bulk of volume from Chile will not materialize until mid-February.

This month we have accumulated 707 total chill hours for the 2024 tree fruit season. You can see from the chart below that the hours are tracking very similar to the 2021/2022 season. Last year was unseasonably cold, especially through bloom which was worrisome for bee flight during pollination. This year is tracking closer to average, with the total hours already above those needed for our low chill (hour) varieties. We had a substantial amount of rain bringing our total for the 2024 season to 4.39 inches. Seasonal rain totals are calculated by compiling rainfall from July of the previous year to June of the current. Totals for prior years are shown below. The average annual rainfall for the San Joaquin Valley is eleven inches.

 

2024 Early varieties of peaches and nectarines are beginning to bloom, signaling the start of another stone fruit season. We are currently ten days ahead of last year, which is similar to the blossom timing of 2022 and 2021. When the trees are blossoming, we closely monitor the forecast for potential hail or a possible freeze. While these weather phenomenoms can be common in early winter, they are sporadic in the spring and can be detrimental to the fruit, especially during early pivotal growth stages.