Walnut and Pistachio growers welcome cold weather

December 31, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Walnut and pistachio growers are hoping colder, chillier temperatures move into the Valley and stay.

"In walnuts, we need approximately 800 hours of chillin to put them in a good dormancy to where they leaf out properly in the spring," said walnut farmer Paul Stanfield.

Stanfield said his trees aren't getting the rest they need because of this season's late winter start. The period between November and February is critical for pistachio and walnut trees that require at least 800 hours of temperatures below 45 degrees. "It's a big concern because we only have 6 weeks left approximately to reach that goal of 800 hours."

So far, growers have only seen about half those days. The trees require the chilly temperatures in order to have a successful blooming season come this spring.

"It's just like a bear that hibernates, so if the tree doesn't get enough rest -- like a bear that gets woken up prematurely. The tree wakes up cranky and it does not leaf out and bloom properly, which in turn can affect the trees production and cut into a grower's income," said Bob Beede, University of California Farm Advisor.

If there's less production then there's less crop available and the prices can certainly go up. But that's not a guarantee either. For now, growers will welcome the colder days and hope for more low temperatures that dip into the thirties.