HMC News – February 2024

The atmospheric river brought much needed rain to the valley this month. We were fortunate to miss the flash flooding and extreme winds that battered the mountains and Southern California. Our new seasonal rain total is 7.11″, up from the 4.39″ from a few weeks ago. While the chill hours are lower than they have been in the last five years, we aren’t worried. The number of hours (733) is adequate, and not concerning. At this point our main concern is a freeze, especially if the temperature dips below 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bloom has started in the early and some mid-season varieties. Bees have been spotted flying through these blossoming trees. We will finish up the last bit of vine pruning and trellis repairs and installation once the fields are dry enough for us to walk through.

Pollination is our current primary interest on the farm. Peaches and Nectarines are self-pollinating, meaning the pollen from the anther in the interior of the blossoms can be deposited on the stigma of that same blossom. Self-pollinating flowers can pollinate adjacent flowers as well. Cross-pollination, which is necessary in plums and plumcots, requires two different varieties of the same commodity to transfer pollen from the anther of one blossom to the stigma of another. Bees are brought into the fields to facilitate this process. For the bees to fly, we need dry weather and temperatures above 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

The 2023-24 offshore grape season got off to a rocky start, with a short Peru crop both arriving early and ending early. Since the beginning of February, the market has relied on Chile to support demand, when normally we would see an overlap in arrivals from Peru and Chile throughout the entire month of February. The earlier northern Chilean growing region ended early and 10 percent short in volume; and as we transitioned to the south of Chile, the start of harvest was delayed, creating a gap in supply. Now that the harvest in the South has begun in earnest, it is moving quickly; and by the end of the season, we expect to see Chile finish 10 to 20 percent down in volume from last year. We still anticipate good volume in March, but the end of the Chilean season and beginning of the Mexican grape season is still very much in the air in terms of volume and timing.

Our orchards are in full bloom. Pink and while flowers fill the rows of our peach, plum, and nectarine fields. In our early varieties, leaves have grown, and small stone fruits have begun to emerge. As a precaution we have begun netting our early varieties to protect against potential future hailstorms. There is a storm in the forecast at the end of the week that predicted to bring approximately one inch of precipitation. Our winter rain total is on track for a normal season and reservoirs are currently at 75%. We’ve received an adequate number of chill hours, and the bloom has been steady and even. If things continue at this pace, we’re on track for an earlier start date than last year.

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