December farm update for Arizona and California

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There is no winter break for western farmers who cultivate land in mild-winter areas.  While other states’ farm fields are staving off hard frosts or simply collecting snow this time of year, those in California and Arizona are churning  out produce. The following is a snapshot of current crop and livestock conditions for the two states. Data has been gleaned from National Agricultural Statistics Service field office crop weather reports for the week ending Dec. 11.

In the way of field crops, Arizona growers are reporting that this season’s cotton harvest is 75 percent complete. Their progress is slightly behind last year and below the five-year average of 84 percent complete. The alfalfa harvest is also underway as farmers reap about half of the acreage across the state. Sheep are now grazing on some of those alfalfa fields. Staggered winter wheat plantings are finally complete in California as farmers there say three-quarters of the crop has emerged above ground, with the earliest planted acres already heading.

Range and pastureland conditions are varied in Arizona. Low and mid elevation pastures have been helped by sporadic precipitation and cooler, seasonal temperatures. However, forage production remains limited in the Grand Canyon state because of a lack of sustained soil moisture. In California, range conditions are slowly improving with what has been noted as irregular precipitation. California ranchers started increasing supplemental feed to cattle and sheep as retired farmland and alfalfa fields aren’t providing adequate forage.

Last week, central and western Arizona farmers shipped arrugala, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupes, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, cilantro, celery, endive, escarole, frisee, honeydews, kale, various lettuces, parsley, radicchio, spinach and Swiss chard. In California, carrots were being harvested from Kern and Fresno counties last week. Fresno County farmers also reported irrigation and fertilizing of their winter vegetables and the planting of dehydrator onions. Tulare County farmers continued to plant winter vegetables. Onion and garbanzo beans were growing well in Sutter County. Throughout the state, tomato and pepper harvests were completed.

Producers in the Golden State saw the harvests of Asian pears, persimmons and kiwis come to an end. In the southern San Joaquin Valley, the olive harvest also came to a close. Also harvested were Pineapple quinces, figs, apples, pomegranates. Grapevines went dormant and pruning had begun. Citrus growers in the Central Valley had to protect their groves from overnight/early morning freezing temperatures.

Most of California’s nut crop harvests are winding down, according to crop reports. The walnut harvest was completed last week. The pistachio harvest was nearing a close. Post-harvest clean-up and pruning operations are in full force.