Uniqueness of California Wheat Industry

California Wheat Growers Farm Every Class of Wheat

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

Wheat is a primary crop for many producers, along with being a valuable rotational crop that helps manage disease and improve the condition of the soil. Wheat production is an important aspect of the economics of farming in California.  Nick Matteis is the Executive Director for the California Association of Wheat Growers.  Having finished planting last month, California wheat growers are pleased with the amount of rainfall already coming to California.

“Soil moisture is key for having a good start on the wheat-growing season. … It’s the best start you could ask for as far as growing season goes,” Matteis said.

The average wheat production in California is 1.1 million tons annually and is most often used within the state for both human and animal consumption. Nearly a quarter of that total is exported. Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 47 percent of the common wheat planted in California was used for silage, forage, green chop or hay.    California wheat also has some characteristics that sets it apart other states.

“We have both irrigated and non-irrigated acreage in this state which is sort of unique compared to most other wheat-growing regions in the country. Most of it’s rain-fed; what we call dryland farming,” Matteis said.

The irrigated wheat acreage in the state also provides “the highest yields in the country, like tons per acre versus bushels, which is how most of the other wheat producing states would measure it,” Matteis said. This quality also contributes to the production of high protein wheat.

California growers planted close to 470,000 acres of wheat in 2015, with a farm value of nearly $125 million for grain produced.  It appears that 2016 saw an increase in plantings. “Right now, I think the guesstimate is somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000 acres are planted in wheat,” Matteis said.

The two main types of wheat grown in California are hard red winter wheat and durum wheat, but growers also produce multiple other varieties.  “We grow every class of wheat, which we’re one of the only states that actually does that. You’re talking Hard Red Winter, Hard Red Spring, Hard White, Soft White. We have the Desert Durum which is really popular for the pasta makers in the world,” Matteis said.

The hard red varieties are classified as winter wheat because of the timing of when it enters the market.  Winter wheat is grown throughout the state, with the majority of production coming from areas located in the San Joaquin Valley, where Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties dominate production.

Desert Durum is a registered certification mark owned by the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council and the California Wheat Commission.  Durum is the hardest of all the wheat varieties, with a high protein content and white bran. Its most often used to make pasta, couscous and some types of Mediterranean breads.

A significant portion of the state’s common wheat is used for milling into general purpose or bread flour.  California also happens to have the largest milling capacity in the U.S., due to having the most mills in one state.

Cherry Industry Hoping for Better Year

Cherry Growers Face Challenges in California

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

 

The cherry trees in California are sitting dormant now, but they will be waking up soon, for what the industry hopes to be a better season than the last few years.

“Cherry trees will soon push bud and leaf out and produce a crop by late April. We’ve had, I think, a decent amount of what we call chill portions,” said Nick Matteis, a spokesperson for the California Cherry Board.

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California Ag Today’s Farm News Director Patrick Cavanaugh, left, speaks to Nick Matteis.

Enough minimum temperatures will help the trees become more vigorous in the spring. “It’s one of the things that makes growing cherries particularly challenging in this state,” Matteis said. “By January, folks will know, and hence, based on that information, that’s when the rest-breaking materials are sprayed if needed.”  Rest-breaking sprays are used to compact and advance bloom and harvest in cherries.

Many consumers in California really hope that this upcoming season will be a good season for cherries. “The only thing that makes it worthwhile is that people still just love to have those cherries at the earliest chance possible,” Matteis said.

“Last year, we got rain at the wrong time. Then we had a lot of split cherries that just didn’t make it to the market. The year before that, anybody’s guess is as good as anybody else’s,” Matteis said.

The cherry growers this year need a break. The state of California did not have a very good crop set two years ago, though last year, they had the opposite. “That’s the story with cherries, we’re always trying to squeeze into a really tight window, whether it comes to growing conditions or markets,” Matteis said.

There are always multiple factors that could lead to a decline in production. “There was some speculation amongst the growers that it maybe had something to do with bloom and pollination. Some thought maybe the chill was a factor, too. Of course, when you talk about any kind of factorial statistical analysis, I’m sure there are many combinations that’d be impossible to simplify,” Matteis explained.

Californian kiwifruit industry forecasts good fruit quality

Source: Fresh Fruit Portal

The upcoming season looks as though it should be a relatively positive one for Californian kiwifruit growers, with normal production, good fruit quality, and strong domestic market conditions.

California Kiwifruit Administrative Committee assistant director Nick Matteis said that as of the board’s latest meeting in July, the industry was anticipating a production of around 6.8 – 7 million seven-pound tray equivalents.

“That’s about average, based on producing acreage and what our growers are able to get produced per acre. It’s about a normal size crop, and the distribution of sizes will be pretty normal as well,” Matteis told www.freshfruitportal.com.

“It’s not lopsided towards larger sizes necessarily nor smaller sizes – there should be a good variation in size profile. The quality looks to be good as well, though at this juncture of course we still have a month and a half of growing season left.”

The board of directors will hold another meeting in September to take one last look at the estimates and see if anything dramatic has occurred.

Matteis said although it didn’t sound like growers have had serious problems with the state-wide drought, he could not be sure due to the vast area they covered.

“It’s hard to generalize how people are going to be affected because we have growing regions closer to the northern area and some further to the south with a couple of hundred miles in between,” he said.

“Most folks are pumping groundwater because there’s zero allocation from the state and federal water resources departments.

“So I think everybody’s going to make it just fine this year – I guess I could summate – but there is some pretty significant groundwater pumping that’s going on now to keep flows where they need to be to get to harvest.”

He added demand looked like it would be strong going into the season, with the first harvest expected to take place around six or seven days earlier than last year.

“Probably at the end of September we’ll start seeing some of the first fruit harvested, but the harvest being in full swing is usually around the first or second week of October,” Matteis said.

“The actual harvest will go till the end of November and then the marketing season will run from October all the way to April.”

Generally around 70-75% of the fruit is sold to the North America market, with Canada and Mexico being the two biggest importers.