What's being harvested now?
With Fresno County‘s diverse agriculture, some type of crop is harvested every month.
SPRING - March, April, MayBack to Top
March 20 is the first day of spring and Fresno County is showing signs of a new beginning for many of the county’s diversified crops.
The leaf lettuce harvest is underway in Fresno County with varieties of red and green leaf, romaine and butter lettuce, making their way to consumers throughout the U.S. The iceberg lettuce harvest will begin on the west side in the Huron area around the week of March 24 and will continue into April. For a six-week period during the spring, about 95 percent of the Nation’s supply of head lettuce comes from western Fresno County.
Also along the west side, tomato seedlings have been transplanted, emerging garlic will receive its first irrigation, and the wheat crop is progressing nicely. Broccoli harvest is on-going and asparagus harvest has begun.
Along the county’s east side, the deciduous tree fruit bloom is almost complete. Varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, pluots and cherries are nearing the end of bloom, beginning to “leaf-out.” Likewise, the almond bloom on both the east and west sides of the county is complete and trees have “leafed-out.”
The weather during bloom was excellent, with little rain which can cause blossom rot and fungus to grow in the flowers unless treated with a fungicide bloom spray. For most of the tree fruits now, the small fruit is still inside the “jackets,” the part of the blossom that helps to protect the tender fruit. As the individual fruit begins to grow, the jacket falls off. Depending on the weather during this time, the tender, growing fruit can be susceptible to damage from unwanted hailstorms.
Grapes, the county’s number one crop, are beginning to awaken from a long winter’s nap. Tender young leaves and the first signs of tiny bunches of grapes are beginning to emerge as the vines break dormancy. This is a very vulnerable time for grape growers, hoping to escape damage from late-frosts or possible hailstorms. On the weekend of March 15, many grape growers were running groundwater, hoping to warm the temperatures to prevent damage from the forecasted freezing temperatures.
Also susceptible to unseasonable weather during this time of year are young strawberries, which are blooming and forming berries.
Livestock producers are encouraged by the improved range conditions from recent rain in the foothills and the unseasonably warm weather.
For additional details about the current harvest and cultural activities for Fresno County’s diversified crops, visit the Department of Agriculture’s Web site here.
SUMMER - June, July, AugustBack to Top
Summer in Fresno County is hot and rain-free. But, thatís just what we need to bring our crops to harvest!
Along the west side of Fresno County, fresh market and dehydrator onions are harvested in mid-June. In early July, the cantaloupe and melon harvest will get underway. Likewise, bell peppers, tomatoes, sweet corn, garlic and other tasty “veggie” crops are harvested during summer.
This year, west side farmers in the Westlands Water District continue to face even greater risks and pressures because of the “regulatory drought” as well as continued bone-dry conditions. The federal Central Valley Project water allocation for the west side is at 10 percent, resulting in many permanent crops to be abandoned and hundreds of thousands of acres are fallow this year. Low water levels in San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, where Westlands’ water is stored, and pumping restrictions in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta because of the Endangered Species Act protection regulations – along with the drought – have created these extreme water conditions.
Along the county’s east side, deciduous tree fruit harvest is underway and will continue until September. Varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, pluots and other specialty stone fruits are being harvested. If time allows, visit the Fresno County Fresh Fruit Trail for a wonderful educational and “tasting” excursion into the production areas and rural communities that make up this “Fruit Bowl” region. Visit www.gofresnocounty.com for details.
Nectarines are being packed at Simonian Fruit Company in Fowler
Just-picked nectarines are ready to be sorted, sized and packed into cartons for consumer to enjoy
In mid-July, harvest of early varieties of fresh market table grapes will begin in Fresno County. In August, the almond harvest will begin and wine and raisin grape harvest will get underway. August-October is a busy time for many Fresno County farmers.
With more than 350 different crops in Fresno County, almost everyday something is being harvested! For additional details about the current harvest and cultural activities for Fresno Countyís diversified crops, visit the Department of Agriculture’s Web site here.
FALL - September, October, NovemberBack to Top
The end of August signals the beginning of harvest for many of Fresno County’s leading crops. Grapes, the County’s number one crop, are being harvested for many markets, and harvest of the County’s number two crop, almonds, is in full swing.
Harvest of grapes for wine has started, as noted by evening skies filled with headlights from the tall mechanical grape harvesters as they travel across the vineyards. Straddling the vines, the mechanical harvester moves down the row, shaking the grapes from the vines and transporting them with precision into a nearby gondola and eventually into a waiting truck for delivery to a nearby winery.
Mechanically harvested wine grapes are picked at night because the cooler temperatures allow the berries to come off the vines more easily, and cooler fruit during night harvest can delay fermentation, allowing more time to get the fruit in a controlled fermentation process at the winery.
This year, growers are encouraged by a more balanced supply and demand situation for most California wine varieties. According to earlier bunch counts, the 2008 crop does not differ much from last year’s. According to the Allied Grape Growers Web site, bunch counts were down from 2007, but not drastically, and they vary by variety. With harvest now underway, growers will have a better assessment of actual crop size.
The raisin grape harvest has begun, with crews picking and laying grapes on trays in the Del Rey, Parlier and Kingsburg areas this week. About 99.5 percent of the U.S. raisins and 45 percent of the world’s crop are produced within a 60-mile radius of Fresno.
While hand-harvest of raisin grapes is still a popular method, growers have turned to other less labor-intensive methods to make raisins. One popular method uses a mechanical harvester that shakes off the grapes and places them on a continuous paper tray to dry in between the rows. After drying, the machine picks up the tray and raisins. Another method, dried-on-the-vine, involves cutting the canes, but leaving the grapes under the canopy where they hang to dry. A mechanical harvester also is used to remove the dried bunches from the vines. The temperature is significantly lower in the canopy compared to the ground, so drying takes longer. Both type of harvesting methods have begun in the County.
In addition, table grape harvest is continuing throughout the County, along with the ongoing harvest of mid-to-late season varieties of peaches, plums, pluots, figs, apples and Asian pears. The melon and processing tomato harvest continues on the west side.
Almonds are in various stages of harvest, with some varieties already have been shaken from the trees and are drying in the orchard, while others have been dried, picked up and taken to the huller. Still other varieties are have not yet been harvested. The market for California almonds remains strong. The California Almond Board reports almond exports to Western Europe increased 24 percent from 2006 and exports to Asia increased 20 percent. The board projects increasing export demand for this year’s crop as well.
Despite this being a dry year, this is the time of season that farmers do not want rain. A nice dry fall will give producers the chance to complete the ongoing harvests and to bring in major crops yet to come including cotton. After the fall, however, let the rain --- and snow – come!
According to Richard Matoian, Executive Director of the Western Pistachio Association, pistachio harvest began at the end of this week (August 29) and will continue for the next 40+ days. Initial quality and nut size looks good. The crop is estimated to be smaller than the record 2007 crop of 415 million pounds. The estimate is somewhere around 260-280 million pounds for 2008. The initial price is about 50 cents higher than last year due to demand and the smaller crop size. California produces 98 percent of the nation’s pistachios.
In November, the types of crops that typically are harvested include late-season strawberries, persimmons, pomegranates, early Naval oranges, late-season table grapes, walnuts, and late-season almonds.
Pictured here, the Hachiya and Fuyu varieties of persimmons are both ripe for harvest. The Hachiya is a large, oblong shaped fruit with glossy, deep-orange skin. It is sweet and rich, and is good for drying. The Fuyu (Fuyugaki) is a medium, “squatty”-shaped fruit. The skin is deep-orange, with light-orange flesh. It too is sweet, yet is mild in flavor. The fruit keeps well and is an excellent packer and shipper.
In addition, several vegetable crops continue to be harvested, especially the wide array of specialty vegetables sold through year-round Farmers Markets. These include such crops as bitter melon, bok choy, long beans and lemon grass.
The major vegetable being harvested in the fall is head lettuce. For a six-week period in the spring and fall, about 95 percent of the head lettuce comes from western Fresno County, near Huron and Five Points. The Fresno County area provides an important marketing window for lettuce growers-shippers to continue to provide high-quality, domestically produced fresh lettuce.
Cotton harvest is just about over, with most of the important fiber removed from the plant and awaiting the ginning process. Cotton will be ginned well into the winter months. With the season winding down, some corn grain and silage acreage continued the various stages of growth, harvest, irrigation, fertilization and treatment to control weeds and insects.
What’s happening in the fields?
Although most of Fresno County’s major crops have already been harvested, work continues on the farms. This is the time of year that growers of permanent crops, like grapes, tree fruits and nuts, make decisions to change varieties or even crops. Shown here, grape vines are being removed to make way for a new crop. These table grapes near Sanger will be replaced with peach trees.
Many growers of permanent crops also use cover crops, as shown here, to help put important nutrients and organic matter back into the soil. This cover crop, planted in late-October, is beginning to emerge and will continue to grow until it will be disked-under in early spring. Also called “green manure,” cover crops can consist of different types of grasses, vetch, clover and/or beans.
Also, orchard and vineyard farmers are beginning to prune deciduous trees and vines in preparation for next year’s crops. Once the colorful leaves drop, skilled farm employees will prune away unwanted branches and brush, leaving fruit wood that will produce next year’s bounty.
The fall also is the time of year that many growers of both permanent and annual crops cultivate and prepare their fields for next year’s crops. This vineyard north of Parlier is freshly cultivated, ready to accept whatever rain comes. Growers throughout Fresno County are praying for abundant rain and snow events this winter. Surface water supplies help relieve the “full-time” need for groundwater supplies. By using surface water for irrigation, growers help to recharge the underground aquifer, which is the major drinking water source for almost all of the cities and communities within Fresno County.
WINTER - December, January, FebruaryBack to Top
The winter months are perhaps the slowest time of the year for most Fresno County farmers and ranchers. But with more than 350 different commercial crops produced in the County, there is always some crop -- or two -- that is being harvested.
In January, citrus varieties are the major crops that are being harvested now. The Navel orange harvest is continuing, as well as mandarins and other specialty varieties. Weather-permitting, the Navel harvest will continue into March. The summer-time Valencia oranges continue to mature on the tree. Harvest of this variety typically begins in May.
Winter vegetable crops also are being harvested during January. Broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, cilantro, endive, and radicchio harvests are continuing. Asparagus fields are being prepared for spring. Harvests continue for farmers market crops such as amaranth, basil, beets, collard greens, daikon, dill, donqua, gailon, garlic, kale, kabocha, leeks, lemongrass, mint, mustard greens, onions (green, red, white and yellow), ong choy, opo, parsley, chili peppers, peanuts, radishes, saluyot (okra leaf), winter squashes, swiss chard, tong ho, yam leaf, and a variety of herbs.
Garlic and onion bulbs have been planted and growers on the west side of the County will be getting ready to plant tomato transplants. The spring crop of lettuce is in the ground. Harvest of it will begin typically in March-April.
For permanent orchard and vineyard crops, such as deciduous tree fruits, almonds and grapes, pruning and shredding activities are underway during the winter months. Pre-emergent herbicides and dormant sprays to control over-wintering pests and fungus spores are being applied. Weather-permitting, orchard crop buds will start to swell in February, followed by bloom. The earliness of the bloom depends on the varieties of the fruit and nut crops.
Grape growers are pruning, irrigating as needed, cultivating and spraying to control weeds and removing old vineyards. This is the time of year that new, bareroot orchard and vineyard crops are planted.