A report that was released recently demonstrates record walnut production for California this year. The 2018 California Walnut Objective Measurement Report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates a ten percent increase in tonnage compared to 2017. The forecast comes from the 2018 Walnut Objective Measurement Survey that was conducted between August 1 and August 21 and predicts a total of 690,000 tons of walnuts this year.
Favorable weather conditions and a reduction in pest pressures are being attributed for the record walnut production. Rainfall that came through California in late spring was thought to have had adverse effects on the crop, however, the weather patterns helped with increasing kernel size and quality due to cooler growing conditions. The periods of substantial heat during the summer caused some concern for growers, with many turning to sunburn prevention materials.
Survey data indicated a three percent increase in average nut set compared to 2017, to 1,176 per tree. Statewide, the percentage of sound kernels in-shell was 98.8 percent, with in-shell weight per nut being 22.3 grams. The in-shell suture measurement was shown to be 32.3 millimeters.
Over the past ten years bearing acres have increased from 230,000 acres in 2008 to 350,000 acres in 2018. Since 1999 the total value of the California walnut crop has seen a dramatic increase, going from $250 million in value to nearly $1.6 billion in 2017. Trees per acre, as well as the price per ton, have both shown a steady trend of growth.
The past ten years of data show that on average final production numbers have been within approximately 25,000 tons of the September forecast, with final numbers often being higher than the forecast. Growers are expecting harvest time to begin sometime during the middle of September.