For the third year in a row, California walnut growers have been blessed with almost ideal harvest weather with brilliant sunshine and almost no rain. The harvest is about 60% completed at this writing and, for the most part, the news is good:
- Yields appear to be up on most varieties with the exception of Hartley. Early varieties like Payne, Ashley, Vina, and Serr are up over last year by an estimated 5-10%. Mid-season varieties like Tulare and Howard also appear to be ahead of last year, although some Tulare growers have reported disappointing yields.
- The Hartley variety is down from last year by an estimated 10-15%. Nut size on Hartley is also down, making it more difficult for packers to produce Jumbo size loads. Hartley is an older legacy variety that is highly prized in European markets but which has been in decline in California for many years now. Very few plantings of Hartley have been made in the past ten years.
- The largest and most consequential variety, of course, is Chandler. The Chandler harvest now accounts for over 50% of the statewide crop and is in the early stages of the harvest now. While it is still too early to determine yields, we are seeing very promising quality with Light and Extra Light kernels and decent nut size. Superior quality has also been observed for the Tulare and Howard varieties as well.
- Kernel yields (also called edible yield or “meat” yield) is about average, neither remarkably high or low compared to previous years.
If the weather continues to hold up for another two weeks or so, the bulk of the harvest will be completed before the end of October.