Walnut production forecast down

 California’s walnut production will be down 4 percent from the 2010 numbers, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast.

This year’s growing season was similar to the 2010 growing season, with adequate chilling hours, above average rainfall and a generally mild summer. Although overall production dropped from 503,000 to 485,000 tons, the mild weather during the growing season has resulted in a crop of excellent quality, the USDA said.

Fresno County harvested more than 7,200 acres of walnuts last year, which yielded 14,000 tons of this particular tree nut. The average price per ton for 2010 was $2,110 statewide, while Fresno County averaged $2,228 per ton for a total value of $31.1 million.

The 2011 numbers are based on the latest Walnut Objective Measurement Survey, which was conducted Aug. 1 through Aug. 24 of this year. Estimated nut sets, sizing measurements, average number of trees per acre and estimated bearing acreage were used in the statistical models.

Harvesting is expected to start a few days later that last year, and about two weeks behind normal due to rain and cool weather, the USDA said.