Dozens of people were spotted parking along almond orchards outside of Ripon and Manteca this past weekend using the picture perfect blossoms as backgrounds for family photos.
What caught some by surprise, though, was the somewhat earlier than normal “snow fall” as breezes sent white blossoms to the ground and then dancing in drft-like fashion across county roads.
All of that beauty — as well as almonds the trees will yield when harvest time rolls around in late summer — are made possible by bees.
And there are a lot of bees doing their thing. Usually two hives are placed per acre. A typical commercial hive has 60,000 bees. Given there are 87,300 acres of almonds in San Joaquin County there are some 10.4 billion bees busy at work in the orchards around Manteca, Ripon, Escalon, Tracy, and Lathrop.
Most of those bees are expected to be gone by mid-month headed east and north to pollinate other crops.
The almond pollination effort — the largest in the world in terms of mobilizing bee hives — not only starts the nation’s crop pollination season but it also requires half of the commercial beehives in the United States to make happen.
Statewide there are almost 1.4 million acres of almonds— including 1.25 million acres that are mature enough to bear nuts — producing a crop valued at $6.09 billion. They constitute California second largest farm product behind milk at $6.4 billion. California — by far the nation’s largest farm state producing crops valued at $49.9 billion or as much as the next two states combined (Iowa $27.4 billion and Nebraska at $21.4 billion).
California’s annual almond production alone is larger than the total farm output of Kentucky as well as 26 other states.
To give you an idea of what 1.4 million of acres of almonds would look like, if all of the California orchards were in one place they’d cover all of San Joaquin County and Sacramento County. As for the 102,500 acres in San Joaquin County they’d blanket the City of San Francisco three times over and still have 12,500 acres left over. San Joaquin County’s almond meat production was valued at $449.6 million in 2019 with hulls and shells accounting for another $16.4 million in production
A quick survey of South County growers that are tough to catch up with this time of year because they are as busy as the bees pollinating their orchards revealed optimism about the 2021 crop production potential.
Warmer temperatures have spurred flower development at a faster pace in the past week than was occurring when the bloom period started. High winds, thigh, have reduced pollination hours in some areas. Growers have expressed concern that drying winds could reduce the viability of flowers that were already opened.
Blue Diamond Growers in their weekly report on Feb. 26 noted the central region that includes San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties reached peak bloom mid-week last week for soft shelled and early blooming almond varieties. Late blooming and hard shelled almonds were expected to have reached peak bloom by today.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com