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» April 8, 2005 «
This may prove to be an on-again, off-again year for California tomato farmers and canneries. Wet fields have disrupted the planting of processing tomatoes, which are used to make salsa, ketchup and other products. Early plantings have done well and will mature on schedule in July. But rain slowed later plantings, and some fields remain too wet for fieldwork. That could bring periods when canneries may have few tomatoes for several weeks, and then more than they can handle.
Spring rains could affect pistachio production in the Central Valley. Farmers already expect a smaller crop, because of their trees' natural, alternate-bearing cycle. But that pattern may be exaggerated this year. Pistachio trees bloom during April, and rely on wind for pollination. Farmers say there has been enough wind so far, but rain in some locations makes it difficult to assess the crop. It will be several weeks before growers know how the pistachio bloom has fared.
Almond growers say they expect their trees to produce smaller crops this year. Rain dampened many orchards during full bloom in February, which kept bees from pollinating the blossoms. During more recent rains, farmers have been applying materials to prevent fungal diseases from further reducing the crop. California farms have produced more than 1 billion pounds of almonds in each of the previous three years.
A new potato variety promises desirable flavor in a durable skin ... and marketers hope it also promises a growing share of the potato market. The variety, known as the Sierra Gold, will be grown this year in the Bakersfield area and the Klamath Basin, and marketed by a Central Valley company. Marketers say the Sierra Gold features the color and flavor of a thin-skinned Yukon Gold potato, but with a skin thick enough to allow it to be baked.
On the Calendar:
A college-sponsored seminar will be held today (Friday) in Coalinga, to teach farmers about prospects for growing crops for "bio-diesel" and other fuels.