California walnut production is predicted to top a record 575,000 tons, up 1 percent from 2014’s production of 570,000 tons.
The record crop comes during a season beset with a shortage of water and chilling hours. The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) forecast credits a relatively mild summer for the increase, though bearing acreage is up 10,000 to 300,000 acres.
Crop quality is reported to be excellent with low disease and insect pressures.
Not only has total California English Walnut acreage increased since 1990, so too has planting density. The 2015 crop shows an average of 72 trees per acre, up from less than 46 trees per acre in 1990. This has helped push yields per acre up from 2,500 pounds per acre to over 3,800 pound per acre.
Prices since 1990 have tripled to over $3,000 per ton, according to NASS.
The forecast is based on the 2015 Walnut Objective Measurement (O.M.) Survey, officially conducted by NASS from Aug. 1 through Aug. 29. There were a few samples completed before Aug. 1 for training and scheduling purposes.
The 2015 Walnut O.M. Survey utilized a total of 745 blocks with two sample trees per block. Survey data indicated an average nut set of 1,272 per tree, down 7 percent from 2014’s average of 1,372.
The percentage of sound kernels in-shell was 98.5 percent statewide. In-shell weight per nut was 22.7 grams and the average in shell width suture measurement was 32.8 millimeters. The in-shell cross-width measurement was 32.8 and the average length in-shell was 38.5 millimeters. All of the sizing measurements were above previous year.
Estimated nut sets, sizing measurements, average number of trees per acre, and estimated bearing acreage were used in the statistical models.
For the latest on western agriculture, please check out Western Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.