The late winter freeze caused significant issues for several different commodities throughout the state and has been especially problematic for the California olive crop. The fluctuating temperatures have created substantial concern among the industry as bloom looks to be far below normal levels.
“Overall we’re a little on the pessimistic side. The bloom, on the whole, has been pretty poor, many orchards actually have a very light, to next to no bloom at all,” said Dani Lightle, Cooperative Extension Orchard Systems Advisor for Glenn County. “There’s an orchard here or there that looks pretty good, but on the whole, it is a little bit dismal.”
Although there were some unusual weather patterns at the beginning of 2018, they were not altogether unheard of. “We actually saw a similar situation around 2006 where there was unseasonably warm weather followed by an extended freeze period, similar to actually what we saw this spring with the warm weather prior to almond bloom,” said Lightle.
The 2006 California olive crop was one of the lowest crop sizes in the past 22 years, with only 19,000 tons of production. “In that year as well, there was a crop failure in the Manzanilla’s where the flowers weren’t there on the trees. So, one possible hypothesis is that there was a sensitive period during the flower development in the olives that the freeze affected,” Lightle stated.
Lightle also noted that there is ongoing research to better understand the bloom process in olives. “There’s a lot that we don’t know about olive flower differentiation and what causes perfect versus imperfect flowers in olives,” said Lightle. “Certainly, when you throw in a twist in the weather like we saw this year, things can happen that we just don’t quite understand nor have the science to understand at this point.”
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