With spring coming soon, farmers hopeful for Valley's top crop

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Almonds make up Fresno's County's top crop, and it's worth over $1 billion. Growers rely on bees to produce nuts, but the bees don't get out into the orchards if it's too cold or too wet outside. (KFSN)

Sunny skies brought a big smile to Valley almond growers. Their trees have blossomed but pollination has been delayed by recent storms.

Almonds make up Fresno's County's top crop, and it's worth over $1 billion. Growers rely on bees to produce nuts, but the bees don't get out into the orchards if it's too cold or too wet outside.

The sound is electric in Valley almond orchards. It's a sound Kerman grower Paul Betancourt loves to hear on a sunny day.

"There's a gentle hum and then you can start seeing them move around the trees," he said.

Betancourt grows close to 200 acres of almonds, so he was taking a close look at his blossoms and listening to hear if the bees were making their way to the middle of the orchard.

"We're clearly not out of the woods, but we're in really good shape right now," he said.

The bees have been cooped up in their boxes for too long. Once the bloom hits, the wet winter conditions had growers watching the skies and checking the forecast frequently.

"You get nervous because you got to set a crop," Betancourt explained. "Each of these blossoms is good for two or three days, and the bloom is only a week to 10 days, two weeks. So, we make our crop right now, and we like our weather to be like this."

On one hand, farmers have enjoyed the rain which provides irrigation and recharges the underground aquifer, but constant rain can cause problems.

"When it starts sitting in where it's raining one day after the next, what you get is mold and fungus loading up," Betancourt said.

The sunshine allowed growers to get out and assess the damage. Recent storms soaked orchards and strong winds caused many older almond trees to fall over.

"One neighbor said he lost two percent of his trees," Betancourt said. "Another neighbor had 470 trees down."

Almond growers are thrilled to see a mostly sunny forecast this week so the bees can get out and do their work.

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agriculturefarmingfresno countyFresno
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