Tree nurseries impacted by drought

With agriculture the number-one industry in the Valley, the effects of this worsening drought are far reaching. Local nurseries which supply fruit and nut trees to growers have been impacted.
January 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
With agriculture the number-one industry in the Valley, the effects of this worsening drought are far reaching. Local nurseries which supply fruit and nut trees to growers have been impacted.

The rush is on to get young fruit trees to orchards around the state. They're ready to be planted in the ground although some farmers worry whether they'll have enough water to bring the trees into production.

But Dale McHaley of Dave Wilson Nursery in Reedley has not seen a reduction in fruit or nut tree sales. He said, "We're running full steam ahead. We didn't get any big cancels or anything. Rumor mill has it out there that there's probably been some from the west side guys but we haven't experienced any of it."

Dry conditions and massive reductions in water deliveries from low reservoirs have hurt farmers.

Fresno County Ag Commissioner Les Wright said some growers are wary about adding new acreage because of uncertainties over water. Wright explained, "Now all of a sudden you're faced with receiving these trees and they're not sure they have enough water to keep them alive so there is concerns out there."

McHaley said Dave Wilson Nursery is the largest tree nursery in the country. It can produce seven million trees a year. He estimated 70% of his sales are to almond growers.

McHaley believed one reason why almond tree sales remain high is the "Independence" variety almond tree. He said, "It's self-pollinating so you don't need a lot of bees out there."

Location also has played a big part in whether new trees will be planted. "My stone fruit guys are all on the east side and we're gonna get a little bit of surface water."

It will be several years before the trees produce a crop. Growers are betting the dire water situation will greatly improve during that time. Wright though said, "It's a risky time to be a farmer right now."


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