HMC News – March 2023

Congratulations to Harold McClarty. This month he received the prestigious Mentor Award from the California Fresh Fruit Association. This award is bestowed upon individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to the fresh grape, berry and tree fruit communities through their leadership in the industry. Those of you who know Harold know he is an outspoken advocate for California Agriculture. He is not only a leader but also a friend to many, and his exceptional character and contributions make him truly deserving of this honor.

We have received a historic amount of rainfall so far this year. At this exact time last year, we had logged 2.53 inches of rain for all of 2022. We are currently registering double our average annual rainfall and current snowpack is over 230% of normal. Future forecasts are calling for more rain and cooler temperatures than normal. Blossoms are progressing in the trees, and bud break is progressing in the grapes. Once the fruit sets, hail will be our biggest environmental concern.

With our tenth atmospheric river on the horizon and temperatures remaining in the 35 – 60 degree range, we need to look into options to assist natural pollination. Pollination is an essential process for the production of plums. Plums are not self-fertile and need pollen from another tree to produce fruit. When we plant our plum orchards, we will plant or graft two to three compatible varieties within the same block to encourage cross pollination, which in turn produces a healthier and more abundant crop. Bee boxes are brought in to aid in the cross pollination, but during cold winters like this, bees aren’t very active below 55 degrees. To provide an extra boost when we have a variety that is difficult to set or abnormally cold weather, we manually extract pollen from our own plum flowers and apply the pollen with a blower as shown in the picture above.

Bud break is a critical stage in the growth cycle of table grapes. It refers to the point in time when the dormant buds on the grapevine start to open, grow and develop into new shoots. Bud break is triggered by rising temperatures and longer daylight hours. Given the cold, wet weather we’ve been having, bud break is running behind this season. As you can see in the pictures above, the buds are more closed up than the past six years. Although a warm spring can compensate, a delayed bud break is typically indicative of a later start to the season.

We had the opportunity to instruct a group of 530 curious fifth graders about the vital role that technology plays in the field of agriculture. The students enthusiastically engaged with the material and posed insightful questions about farming practices, the role of robots in agriculture, and potential careers in the field. Overall, it was a rewarding experience that highlighted the importance of educating the next generation about the evolving landscape of agriculture.

 

HMC News – February 2022

Pink blossoms on a tree in an orchard

After a winter with sufficient chill hours, some of our earliest stone fruit varieties have started to wake up from their winter hibernation as they push the first blooms of the 2022 season. These first flowers bring anticipation for the upcoming season along with the anxiety of knowing that unfavorable weather conditions can now have deleterious effects on the 2022 crop. Blossoms become commonplace around the valley as hundreds of different stone fruit varieties will be in different stages of bloom in late February and early March.

Dirt field with stick. Man wearing jeans, boots, and gloves wrapping white tape around stick.

We are in the process of grafting trees in some of our stone fruit orchards. Grafting is a process in which scion wood (a piece of wood from the desired varietal) is bonded to existing rootstock. This allows the new variety to reach harvest more quickly than planting entirely new trees. Different root stocks are beneficial for different reasons, such as drought resistance, increased vigor, or successful growth in a particular soil type.

Bundles of baby trees in two white bins

We’re planting new trees on the blocks of land we’ve spent the last few months preparing for this very thing. Selecting new varieties is a process which requires a lot of research to ensure that only the best tasting varieties make it to our farms, but we also take other factors, such as harvest timing, into consideration to ensure a consistent flow of delicious fruit is available throughout the harvest season.

Unlike peaches and nectarines, most of our plum varieties are not self-fertile and require pollination from another variety to set a crop. Many blocks of plums are comprised of two or more varieties for cross-pollination. Every year we place beehives in our plum orchards to promote the cross-pollination process. Often, we include “bouquets” of a third plum variety in bins near the orchard as a supplemental pollen source.

Noticias del HMC - Marzo 2020

Los ciruelos no se autopolinizan como los melocotoneros y las nectarinas, por lo que necesitan la polinización de otras variedades de ciruelas para producir frutos. Para que nuestros ciruelos tengan las mejores posibilidades de polinización, plantamos bloques de variedades de polinización cruzada adyacentes entre sí en grandes fincas. Es importante elegir variedades que florezcan al mismo tiempo para garantizar que las abejas puedan hacer su trabajo, trasladando el polen de las flores de una variedad a otra. cuando el calendario de floración de las variedades está desfasado, o cuando el tiempo es demasiado frío para que las abejas vuelen (por debajo de 55 °F), el resultado es una cosecha de ciruelas corta. Como se ve en la imagen, este año tenemos una floración muy uniforme, lo que es una buena señal para una cosecha completa de ciruelas.

Nuestros viñedos inactivos recibieron recientemente una capa de compost para ayudar a alimentar los microbios del suelo y reponer el nitrógeno, el fósforo y el potasio agotados en el suelo. El uso de compost nos permite mantener la salud del suelo utilizando formas orgánicas de nutrientes, y reduce la necesidad de fertilizantes sintéticos. Para garantizar que el compost que utilizamos sea seguro de aplicar, se coloca en hileras, se lleva a una temperatura adecuada y se gira varias veces para garantizar que se cocine cualquier patógeno. El momento de la aplicación del compost depende del tiempo: esperamos hasta que haya pasado el final del invierno para que las fuertes lluvias no arrastren los minerales más allá de la zona de las raíces y la temperatura sea lo suficientemente cálida para que los microbios del suelo estén activos.

Estamos tomando todas las precauciones posibles para garantizar un suministro continuo de productos nutritivos durante estos tiempos sin precedentes. Estamos escalonando los periodos de descanso y comida en nuestras instalaciones para minimizar el número de personas en una zona determinada al mismo tiempo, hemos cambiado las configuraciones en nuestras instalaciones de procesamiento para maximizar el distanciamiento social, y seguimos cumpliendo nuestras ya extremadamente altas normas de higiene y seguridad alimentaria. También estamos nebulizando las zonas comunes con desinfectante durante las horas de descanso y hemos adquirido ordenadores portátiles adicionales para que algunos empleados puedan trabajar desde casa cuando sea necesario. Estamos planificando la próxima temporada de fruta de hueso, con el inicio del aclareo. Hasta ahora parece que habrá una gran carga de cosecha, lo que requerirá un aclareo exhaustivo y oportuno de nuestra cosecha. Estamos observando el cielo con atención, ya que se prevén lluvias, y nos acercamos a la época de la primavera en la que las precipitaciones que se convierten en granizo pueden ser increíblemente devastadoras.