General Agriculture Archives

Appreciate U.S. Agricultural Policy and the Farmers Who Grow Our Food

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Leave a comment

The closest simple definition of basic U.S. Agriculture Policy can be reflected in United Nations definition (see below). I could not find a simple statement from the U.S Government, after searching for a half an hour on the internet. I remember hearing it explained during my classes at the University of Georgia when I was studying for my agriculture degree.

Food security (Source Wikipedia)
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines food security as existing when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The four qualifications that must be met for a food secure system include physical availability, economic and physical access, appropriate utilization, and stability of the prior three elements over time.”

In other words, we need food to be:
1) Readily available for the foreseeable future
2) Available at relatively low prices
3) The food needs to safe for consumption
4) The food needs to be nutritious

Honeybees Pollinate CA Cantaloupes!

Honeybees Pollinate CA Cantaloupes!

Formulating agricultural policy for the United States is a complicated process and has evolved over the history of our country. Changes to agriculture policy continue as innovations in technology change the way our food is grown, how it is consumed within the U.S. and how it is exported all over the globe. Agriculture exports contribute positively to our balance of trade. Often we hear of a negative U.S. trade balance because of our imports of electronics, machines, vehicles and oil. Agricultural products are an very important part of our nation’s economy. Changes in agricultural policy due to legislation, the farm bill (including subsidies), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) , EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and other influences, contribute to the evolution of farming. More than three million people farm or ranch in the United States. Over 22 million people are employed in farm or farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs (fertilizer, seeds), processing (wheat into pasta), marketing and sales (wholesale and retail).

On June 19th, 2016 you may have noticed the headlines about the failed economy and food policy of Venezuela. Even though Venezuela has some of the largest oil reserves, the people were rioting because they did not have enough food. Transportation of food was under armed guard, soldiers stood guard over bakeries, mobs stormed grocery stores, pharmacies and butcher shops. As I read the news, it made me think how thankful I am that we have the wonderful farmers, ranchers, dairy men and women, and all the other agricultural producers that we have in the U.S. We also have a government that, for the most part, is dedicated to the success of our agricultural businessmen and women.

The political stability of a county is really based on the overall health of a well fed population. Without a well fed population, it could be political and economic chaos. In the U.S., most of us take for granted that food will always be available and have not thought about a limited supply of food. This is different than not having enough money to buy available food. Can you imagine a time when there would be no milk, bread or eggs (the staples for every run on the grocery store during an emergency)? In this country it is unimaginable.

Farmers in the U.S. need to have the availability of government backed programs in order to remain in business. Let me give you an example. Once I was given the opportunity to buy my own farm. When I did a ten year forecast, it became obvious that within ten years of up and down profitability, I would need to plan for at least one year of total crop failure, not only zero income, but the loss of all my input expenses for that year. When I factored in the income needed to repay the debt for the “lost year”, my financial future did not look so good. I passed on the opportunity. Farmers are at the mercy of the weather which is totally out of there control, with few exceptions. An exception would be if the farmer has irrigation. Farmers need economic breaks to “weather” the bad times, so they can consistently continue to produce food for our county. We need farmers to continue to be in business.

Many times we hear, in a negative way, that mainstream farms are made up of “Factory” farms, when the truth is that over 95 percent of U.S. farms are owned by individuals, individual families, family partnerships or family corporations. Farms have had to get bigger because prices for most agricultural commodities have not risen along with the prices on nonagricultural goods. The only way for farms to remain profitable is to become bigger and make less money on a per unit basis, but grow and sell more volume. The individuals, individual families, family partnerships and family corporations are predominantly the same people who once owned smaller farms. The less innovative, less ambitions, less hard working, poorer managers have left the business, as within any industry. Without these surviving experienced, innovative agricultural businessmen, your food supply would not be what it is today.

Yes, there are those that will belittle the large “Factory” farms, and claim that we should all go “organic” or “buy local”, but the food security of our nation is dependent on main stream agriculture. Recently farm programs are now also including smaller farms, to encourage farming at almost any level, so local growers and organic growers can also benefit from some agricultural programs. It is important to support all agriculture to meet the needs of our county. When the organic, or local guy is out of product, you can still go to the grocery store and be confident there will be something to eat every day of the year!

Soil Temperature – Soil Thermometer

Posted on March 28, 2016 by Leave a comment

Soil Thermometer

One of the first things I learned as an agronomist, was the importance of soil temperature. Almost every seed has a specific temperature range where it will germinate best. If the soil temperature is colder or warmer than that temperature range, the seed may not germinate at all. This applies to both desirable plant seed and weed seed.

A soil thermometer can be purchased most easily online. There are now a large variety of options to choose from, but the inexpensive simple “dial and probe” soil thermometer is still as good any any. They are durable and can be left in the soil for months. Just be sure to put it where it won’t get stepped on!

Two examples of weed seeds that are sensitive to soil temperature in a lawn and landscape environment are common crabgrass and poa annua. Crabgrass germinates when spring soil temperatures rise to 55 degrees or above in the top 1-2 inches of soil. Poa annua germinates in late summer when soil temperatures fall to 70 degrees or below in the top 1-2 inches of soil. This is very important if you are applying lawn a herbicide which needs to be applied prior to the germination of these 2 weeds. The soil temperature needs to be closely monitored to make the decision when to apply.

The same is true for vegetable or flower gardens. It is important to read your seed packet or seed catalog information to glean the soil temperature range for the germination of the seed you wish to plant. An example of this is the difference between tomato seed germination and eggplant germination. Tomatoes need 60-70 degrees, and Eggplants need 75 to 80 degrees.

Fertilizers are broken down in the soil by soil microorganisms. Soil microorganisms and fungus organisms are more active at higher temperatures as long as moisture is present. Certain microorganisms thrive in different temperature ranges; some at 40-50 degrees, some at 50-60 degrees, some at 70-80 degrees, etc. In order for the fertilizer to be broken down, the microorganisms need to be active to convert the nutrients into forms usable by the plants. Did you ever notice mushrooms suddenly appearing in the fall all at once. This is an indication that the temperature and moisture conditions were just right to make them grow.

The take home message is that for a small investment in a soil thermometer, you can increase your ability to manage your soil related actives where knowing the soil temperature will make a difference.

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Choosing a Sprayer for Your Small Farm Needs

Posted on January 28, 2016 by Leave a comment

On our small farm we needed a sprayer for multiple uses, including several acres of food plots, an acre of orchard and the capability to correctly spray herbicides, fungicides and insecticides in field and orchard conditions. You will not find this type of sprayer at your local supplier and may have to special order such a sprayer. These sprayers will also cost about five times more than an inexpensive herbicide sprayer. This additional cost can be justified if the versatility is required for your operation.

Hardi BNL 50 Estate Sprayer

Hardi BNL 50 Estate Sprayer

If you are only spraying herbicides or other products that do not need high pressure and high water volume per acre, an inexpensive boom type sprayer is all you need. Some systemic insecticides or fungicides could also be applied with this type of sprayer. Today a lot of food plot sprayers are mounted on the the back of ATVs and UTVs for this purpose. However, if you need to apply contact fungicides, insecticides, miticides or other products that need to be applied with high water volume and high pressure to obtain thorough coverage, you will need a more sophisticated sprayer to achieve this goal.

For spraying a small orchard it will require high water volume and high pressure to get up into the trees and achieve complete coverage of all the leaves, fruit and branches. This requires either an air-blast sprayer or a high pressure gun sprayer. The air-blast sprayer is the most efficient choice, but requires purchasing a completely separate piece of expensive equipment. A high pressure gun sprayer can be added to a boom sprayer as an accessory for a small orchard. With a gun sprayer your mobility is limited by the length of the hose that is attached to the sprayer.

For spraying small fruit crops like strawberries, or low height vegetable crops like broccoli, pumpkins, potatoes, etc., a high water volume, high pressure sprayer is required in order for the spray material to penetrate the leaf canopy and undersides of the leaves of these crops. Products such as fungicides, insecticides, miticides require high water volume and high pressure. Herbicide products do not require high pressure or high water volume. You will need to understand the capability of the available pumps that can be mounted on your sprayer and choose the proper pump to supply the water and spray pressure you will require.

Adjust your boom height so the spray pattern achieves good coverage

Adjust your boom height so the spray pattern achieves good coverage

If simply spraying pre-plant, pre-emergence, or post applied herbicides or other products that require low pressure and low water volume a basic boom sprayer is all you need. These sprayers are available normally from local suppliers and are relatively inexpensive. They usually come with flat fan nozzles for applying herbicides.

Adjust your pressure to meet the needs of your situation

Adjust your pressure to meet the needs of your situation

Maintenance for sprayers is relatively simple. Keep the sprayer inside, if possible. Storing the sprayer inside helps reduce exposure to moisture and sunlight. Sunlight will fade the paint and will contribute to the gradual degradation of the hoses. Moisture encourages rust. Keep any mechanisms that require lubrication greased or oiled at least annually. When overwintering in climates with freezing temperatures, the water in the sprayer pumps and lines should be replaced with an antifreeze mixture as required by the manufacturer.

There are a variety of nozzles that are available for sprayers, depending on what you need to spray. For herbicides, the flat fan nozzles that come with the sprayer are probably all you will need. If you are applying other products, hollow cone nozzles or other types of nozzles may be required. Accessories are also available such as a diaphragm check valve for drip free shut off, which shuts the nozzle off at below 10 PSI (pounds per square inch). This feature stops the nozzle from dripping once it is shut off.

Choose nozzles that fit your needs

Choose nozzles that fit your needs

Most boom sprayers have folding booms and this is a great feature for storing the sprayer. The outside booms fold up and criss-cross on the back of the sprayer.

Features: Orchard Spray Gun, High Pressure & Folding Booms

Features: Orchard Spray Gun, High Pressure & Folding Booms

When you add additional equipment like a sprayer, disc, or bush hog to the back of a sprayer it adds weight to the back which must be counter balanced on the front. We have added weights to the front bumper of our tractor. Other options are to add a fluid inside the front tractor tires or add weights to the front tractor wheels. If you choose to add fluid to the tractor tires, a qualified tractor tire dealer can do this.

Adding weight to the front of the tractor

Adding weight to the front of the tractor

Always read agricultural chemical labels, tractor owners manuals and equipment manuals prior to attaching and using an agricultural sprayer.

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Simple Germination Test

Posted on January 26, 2016 by Leave a comment

The simple seed germination test provides you with the information to decide whether to plant the seed you have or buy new seed.

When you buy new seed to plant in the current year, the seed packet or bag of seed, will tell you the year that the seed was packed for and the germination percentage. Seed companies are required to furnish this information. Seed for sale is normally harvested the previous year and will normally have the highest germination percentage. Standard seed germination rates for vegetable crops range from 40% to 80%. However, the germination rate can be much higher. I am holding a new packet of turnip seed with a germination percentage of 96%. If the seed is not planted in the year it was packed for, it will normally lose viability or percent germination.

Seed is a living thing and usually only needs water, and room temperature to germinate. The longer the time between seed packaging and seed planting the lower the seed germination percentage will be. If the seed is stored in cool temperatures and moderate humidity, more of the seed viability will be preserved. Some seeds deteriorate faster than others. Just because the seed is a couple years old, it is not necessarily ready to throw in the trash. There is a simple germination test that you can do to test the current germination percentage.

How many of these corn seeds will germinate?

How many of these corn seeds will germinate?

Take about 20 seeds and place them in a moist paper towel (not wet) and fold the paper towel so all that seeds are contained within the moist paper towel. Separate the seeds so they are not all bunched together, because you will want to count them in about 5 days. Then place the paper towel in a quart ziplock bag and seal the bag. Place the bag near a window where it can get some light, but not direct sunlight, where it will maintain room temperature of 70 degrees more or less. After 5 to 7 days you will gently open the paper towel to observe how many seeds have germinated and how many have not.

Wrap the seed in a moist paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag

Wrap the seed in a moist paper towel and place it in a ziplock bag

To calculate the germination percentage divide the number of seed germinated by the total number of sees evaluated. In this case we have 11 corn seeds germinated out of 20 total seeds (11/20 = .55 or 55%). If normal germination was 80%, we need to plant about 31% more seed in order to achieve a complete stand (80-55)/80=31. Most of the time the seeding rate is printed on the seed packet or tag. The seeding rate includes the space between the rows and the space between the seeds in the row.

The simple germination test

The simple germination test

If the results of a germination test shows the germination percentage much lower than normal, the seed may also lack seedling vigor. In other words the seed may germinate but be unable to push the growing point up through the soil in difficult conditions. If you have the time and garden space, you can just plant and see what comes up! If it does’t grow, you can replant!

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Fall Produce Photos

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Leave a comment

When visiting the Genesee Valley Produce Auction in Centerville, NY we took a few photos that we would like to share. These photos only represent a fraction of the many produce options available at the auction. Fall is a big time for western NY apples which we did not photograph, but were available at the auction. we hope you enjoy the photos and notice the quality of the produce offered at the auction!!

Big Stem Pumpkins!

Big Stem Pumpkins!

Late season peaches and nectarines were still available due to the short growing season in western NY State. In the southern states the stone fruit season is over by late September.

Peaches & Nectarines!

Peaches & Nectarines!

Big White Pumpkins make a more ghost like Jack-O-Lantern when carved and are also used to make pumpkin pie and all those other pumpkin recipes.

Big White Pumpkins!

Big White Pumpkins!

Butternut squash is a great cooking squash which has a sweet nutty flavor.

Butternut Squash!

Butternut Squash!

Ornamental gourds are a beautiful addition to any fall or Thanksgiving display. Gourds are appropriate for both indoor and outdoor decorations.

Gourds!

Gourds!

Spaghetti squash is very popular as a substitute for grain based spaghetti and other culinary recipes.

Spaghetti Squash!

Spaghetti Squash!

Beets! If you would try them, you might like them. We just like them peeled, boiled, diced and served with a little real butter, salt and pepper.

Beets!

Beets!

Cushaw Squash. The first time a saw a cushaw squash was in Kentucky many years ago. Being an adventurous cook, I brought it home and made the best “pumpkin” pie I ever made!! Just peel, cut in cubes, bake the cubes, mash it, and substitute the same quantity for the pumpkin in your pumpkin pie recipe. I usually copy the recipe off of canned pumpkin.

Cushaw Squash!

Cushaw Squash!

Hubbard Squash is for squash lovers!! You can freeze a lot of squash out of one Hubbard Squash. This squash also makes a great “pumpkin” pie and many other squash based recipes. We made five or six “pumpkin” pies out of one Hubbard squash last year and we still have enough frozen to make one more pie. We added dried cranberries and raisins to the pumpkin pie filling and baked it with whole pecans on the top to add some extra flavors.

Hubbard Squash!

Hubbard Squash!

Really big pumpkins! These pumpkins make great big Jack-O-Lanterns which look great on a spooky Halloween Night!! If you have trouble getting these bad boys to stand up, just slice off the bottom inch to make it flat, so they can be stabilized for carving and displaying.

Big Pumpkins!

Big Pumpkins!

Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins – regular size and color. When we were kids, this is about all we had to choose from! These “normal” pumpkins are still great for trick or treating age children. They usually have a relatively thin skin for cutting, have a flat bottom to sit on, a good size stem to hold on to, and look wonderful carved and lighted on Halloween Night!!

Jack-O-Lanterns!

Jack-O-Lanterns!

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Genesee Valley Produce Auction

Posted on October 11, 2015 by Leave a comment

Genesee Valley Produce Auction
8855 County Road 3
Centerville, NY 14029

1/4 mile east of “downtown” Centerville on the road towards Hume/Fillmore, NY.
Centerville is a small town in northwest Allegany County, NY, at a crossroads. The most notable business in downtown Centerville is Uncle Tom’s Kabin which is a small grocery store. Go 1/4 mile towards Hume/Fillmore and The Genesee Valley Produce Auction will be on the south side of the road. If you are coming from Hume/Fillmore, it will be on the south side of the road just before you enter the village. You can’t miss it!!

Auction Days: Usually lasts an hour or two depending on how much is up for sale.
Tuesday – 10:00 AM till over
Friday – 10:00 Am till over

For questions call: This is an Amish Auction and contact by phone is only available at specific times.
585-567-8640 from 9:00 till about noon on auction days
585-567-4312 other days between 8:00 – 8:30 AM

Genesee Valley Produce Auction, LLC

Genesee Valley Produce Auction, LLC

Update 5/24/16: The auction has resumed for 2016 and will continue until the end of October. The first annual Quilt, Furniture & Craft Auction will be held June 25th, 2016.

The Genesee Valley Produce Auction, LLC in Centerville, NY is in the process of finishing it’s second year as a seasonal local produce auction. It appears to be a growing, successful enterprise. This wholesale produce action is owned and operated for the benefit of the local Amish community, which is part of the community of Centerville, NY. Centerville is a small rural town in Allegany County in western NY State.

Fall Pumpkins and Flowers!

Fall Pumpkins and Flowers!

In an effort to boost the local economy, the auction has been established to furnish an outlet for locally grown produce. This includes Amish and non-amish producers. The auction provides high quality produce to potential buyers which includes small to medium size local roadside produce stands. As the auction becomes more successful and attracts a larger number of bidders, the demand for local produce grown in and around Centerville has increased.

Here is how it works: A buyer or Seller is required to get a number to identify your purchase or sale. This is done in the office. Next, Preview the goods to see what you are interested in bidding upon. Take note of the package size being offered because that will be the minimum purchase you can buy, once you have made a bid. You must listen to the auctioneer, as he will sometimes have instructions regarding the quantity to be purchased with your bid. Usually you can purchase anywhere from one package to the entire lot, at the price you bid. It helps to watch the bidding process for a while before you start bidding. Once you feel comfortable, make your bid. Once you have completed all your bidding, you take your number to the office to pay for your purchase. Then, load up and head for home.

Additionally there is a “Retail” table that has pre-priced small package sizes of fruits, vegetables and baked goods. If you do not need a large quantity of a specific item, you may find it on the retail table. There will be a person near the retail table to take the package number and then you can pay for the item in the office.

Auction Bidding in Progress!

Auction Bidding in Progress!

These photos were taken in late September when the Fall produce is available. Produce that is only available for a short period of time during the year, like concord grapes, pumpkins, and apples need to be purchased during their season. Earlier in the year during the Spring and Summer other produce like hanging flower baskets, or sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers are available.

Concord Grapes!

Concord Grapes!

One of the benefits of a local produce market is the potential to purchase unique items such as these walnut log flower baskets with grape vine handles. Although you many not want to buy a whole pallet of hanging baskets, it may be an opportunity to work with your neighbors to save a few dollars by buying in bulk in a wholesale setting. If you are into canning or freezing for your family, it is an economical way to purchase fresh produce in quantities not offered in the grocery store. It is a great adventure to gather a few friends to go visit the auction, find a great deal, and share the bargain you found.

Specialty Flower Baskets!

Specialty Flower Baskets!

Over the past 20 years or so, an Amish community has developed in and around Centerville. It is now very normal to encounter a buggy or two on the road when you travel locally. The Amish have purchased a significant portion of the local real estate where there were once small dairy farms that went out of business in the 1970s and 1980s. The community is complete with homesteads, carpenters, storekeepers, builders, sawmills, a poultry farm, and local produce and greenhouse growers.

Centerville Amish Community

Centerville Amish Community

Centerville is a small town located in the northwestern corner of Allegany Counsty, NY. It is about an hour and fifteen minutes from Buffalo, NY and about an hour and a half from Rochester, NY. It is a rural town with a population of 822. The main occupation is dairy and beef cattle farming. There are also several maple syrup producers. Centerville is located at a high elevation in western NY with hills reaching 2000 feet. This high elevation is associated with ample snowfall in the winter and cooler temperatures in the summer; often 5-10 degrees cooler than Buffalo or Rochester. The beautiful rolling hills make a scenic ride at any time of year.

The Beautiful Rolling Hills of Centerville, NY!

The Beautiful Rolling Hills of Centerville, NY!

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Hawiian Coffee

Posted on September 8, 2015 by Leave a comment

We recently visited the island of Kauai in Hawaii where they grow a significant portion of the Hawaiian coffee crop. We took a tour at the Kauai Coffee Company and learned a lot about coffee. The Kauai Coffee Company is the largest producer of coffee in the United States of America.

Hawaiian Coffee

Hawaiian Coffee

The coffee trees grow on the relatively steep slopes of the island overlooking the Pacific ocean. The coffee growing area is in a dry environment on the island and the trees are drip irrigated. The dry environment also reduces the number of pests and diseases that effect coffee trees. The trees blossom mainly in early spring, beginning in February or March, but continue to produce blooms into late spring and early summer. The timing of blooming also depends on the variety of coffee being grown. When you look at the developing coffee “cherries”, they are different sizes depending on when the flowers were pollinated. It is the seeds within the cherry that develop into the coffee beans. Usually there are two beans per cherry. The trees are trimmed to accommodate mechanical harvesting. The harvester used was adapted from a machine designed to harvest blueberries.

Hawaiian Coffee Trees

Hawaiian Coffee Trees

The coffee flower is very fragrant and is used to produce a coffee blossom honey. This honey crop is very small due to the relatively small acreage of coffee trees and the partial year that the blossoms are available to the honeybees.

Coffee Flower

Coffee Flower

When the coffee cherries begin to ripen they start to turn red. The specific variety of coffee in the photo is a somewhat ever-bearing coffee which can have blooms, young cherries and ripe cherries on the coffee tree all at the same time. The ripe coffee cherries are harvested from mid October through mid December. After the cherries are harvested they are taken immediately for “Wet” processing. During the processing the beans are separated from the pulp, dried, and prepared for storage.

Ripening Coffee Beans

Ripening Coffee Beans

The coffee is ready to be roasted after the beans are harvested and dried. Once the beans are roasted, flavoring oils can be added to add virtually any flavor desired to the coffee beans.

Roasting the Coffee

Roasting the Coffee

If you should happen to visit Kauai, we highly recommend visiting and taking the short tour at the Kauai Coffee Company.

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California Cantaloupes!

Posted on June 18, 2015 by Leave a comment

We were traveling near Bakersfield, California and came upon this very large field of cantaloupes. The Romans, in Italy, learned to grow cantaloupes from the Egyptians. The cantaloupe is named after the town of Cantalupo in Italy, so cantaloupes have been grown for long time. Approximately 75% of the cantaloupes grown in the United States of America are grown in CA. Bakersfield is located in the lower San Joaquin Valley, sometimes called the Central Valley. Cantaloupes in the Central Valley are planted from early April until mid summer. The fruits require about 90 days before they are ready for harvest which takes place between June and October. During this growing period the weather is normally hot and dry which makes irrigation a necessity. The low humidity and lack of rainfall helps prevent foliar and fruit diseases. It is important that the cantaloupes are ripe before they are picked because up to 50% of the sugar content is created in the last week of ripening. The melon is ripe when it’s color changes from green to a yellow / tan color and the “netting” shows a distinct contrast. Melon ripeness can also be determined when the fruit separates from the vine or “slip stage”. The sugar content stops increasing at this stage. The melon will continue to ripen after harvest and become juicer. Cantaloupes should be refrigerated after they are cut open.

California Cantaloupes!

California Cantaloupes!

Similar to other types of melons, there are both male and female flowers on the same cantaloupe plant. The male flowers develop first, followed by the female flowers. Honeybees are required for pollination. Honeybees are brought to the field by a beekeeper and placed surrounding the whole field of cantaloupes. The placement of the bee hives helps achieve uniform pollination and helps maximize yields of premium fruit. Since the honeybees require pollen and nectar for their survival, the honeybee hives are removed after blossoming is completed. The honeybees are then moved to another location, where another food source is available. The beekeeper is paid for this service which is critical to the success of so many agricultural crops in CA.

Honeybees Pollinate CA Cantaloupes!

Honeybees Pollinate CA Cantaloupes!

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California Pistachios!

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Leave a comment

California is the largest producer of pistachios in the United States of America. The pistachio is a native tree to Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey, and has been cultivated since about 7000 years B.C. The acreage of pistachios in CA continues to grow and as of 2014 there were about 225,000 bearing acres. The first commercial crop in CA was harvested in 1976. It takes about 6 years for a young tree to begin to bear fruit. There are both male and female trees which are needed for pollination. Pollination is wind born and does not require honeybees. The trees bear in alternate years with one year having a heavy crop and the next year a light crop. It takes about 15 growing years for a crop to be profitable, however trees can profitably bear for more than 50 years.

CA Pistachios in June

CA Pistachios in June

Botanically the pistachio is classified as a drupe. The edible part is the seed. Pistachios bloom in March in CA. The shell expansion occurs after pollination and begins to harden in June. The nut develops in July. By late July and early August the hull or husk splits, but the nut remains intact. The nuts ripen in at the end of August and into September and at that time the husk or hull becomes loose. Shell splitting begins about this same time. Harvest usually starts in early September and lasts from four to six weeks. The nuts are harvested with a mechanical shaker. The nuts are immediately processed to preserve the highest quality. Historically more than half the crop is exported to China, Europe and Canada.

CA Pistachio Trees in June

CA Pistachio Trees in June

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California Almonds!

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Leave a comment

California produces 100% of the almonds in the United States of America and 75% of the almonds in the world. Spanish Franciscan Padres introduced almond trees into what would become California, in the mid 1700s. The almonds are grown in the Central Valley in California. Almond trees start to bloom as the weather gets warmer in January and February. Almonds are not self pollinating and require at least two different varieties to successfully produce fruit. Honeybees are required for maximum pollination. After pollination a fuzzy gray/green hull begins to grow which will contain the almond kernel.

Fuzzy Green Almonds in Mid June

Fuzzy Green Almonds in Mid June

The hull continues to grow, harden and mature until July. Next the hull will begin to split and open. From mid August until late October the split will open exposing the almond shell and causing it to dry, as well as the kernel inside the shell. To harvest, the trees are shaken with a mechanical “tree shaker”. The nuts are allowed to dry further on the orchard floor and then swept into rows where they are picked up mechanically. During hulling the shells are separated from the kernels.

After harvest, in November and December, the almond tree begins to start the whole process over again by developing new flower buds for next years crop.

Right now the biggest challenge to growing almonds is the extended drought in California which has already had a limiting impact on almond production.

Almond Tree in Mid June

Almond Tree in Mid June

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