2011 California Almond Crop May Be Biggest Ever

California’s 2011 almond production is forecast at a record 1.95 billion meat pounds, up 11% from May’s subjective forecast and 19% above last year’s crop. The forecast is based on 750,000 bearing acres, which is also a record, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.

Production for the signature Nonpareil variety — which fetches growers the highest prices — is forecast at 750 million meat pounds, an eye-popping 35% above last year’s deliveries. The Nonpareil variety represents 38% of California’s total almond production. California is responsible for virtually all U.S. almond production.

After a good winter with excellent chilling hours, the 2011 almond crop bloom began in an unusually chilly spring that had growers initially concerned because the bees that are responsible for pollination don’t fly as much when cold. But the cold spring also lengthened the bloom, causing more overlap between varieties. The bees then eventually came through, and the flowering trees set an excellent crop.

Freezing temperatures did affect the northern regions more heavily than the south, but frost damage was insignificant. Older plantings suffered some damage from the strong winds that accompanied the spring storms, but overall damage was minimal. Spotty damage from hail was also noted. Low disease and insect pressure have been reported and, with all the precipitation California has seen this winter, lack of water for irrigation is not the problem it was a few years ago. This year’s snowpack was impressive, causing many ski resorts in the Sierra Nevada to stay open through the recent Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The average nut set per tree is 7,353, up 23% from 2010. The Nonpareil average nut set of 7,482 is up 34% from last year’s set. The average kernel weight for all varieties sampled was 1.49 grams, 13% below last year. The Nonpareil average kernel weight was 1.60, down 15% from last year. As with most fruit crops, generally the more almonds per tree, the lower the average almonds size. A total of 98.7% of all nuts sized were sound.

Though the crop forecast, which is officially known as the “Objective Measurement Survey,” is conducted by the USDA-NASS, it is paid for by the Almond Board of California.

Source: The USDA National Agricultural Statistical Service, in conjunction with the Almond Board of California

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