Late Winter Rains, Heavy Blooms Herald a Promising Season in California

A wet and mild winter followed by strong flowering has olive oil producers feeling good about the coming harvest.

By Thomas Sechehaye
Jun. 26, 2023 14:35 UTC

After an aver­age 2022/23 crop year, pro­duc­ers in California say con­di­tions in the Golden State look promis­ing ahead of the 2023/24 har­vest.

In the pre­vi­ous crop year, California pro­duced 1.94 mil­lion gal­lons (7.34 mil­lion liters) of olive oil, the third-high­est total of the past five years and 20 per­cent below the rolling five-year aver­age.

We are pleased to report a note­wor­thy bloom through­out the groves, sig­ni­fy­ing a promis­ing poten­tial for har­vest.- Emma Koefoed, mar­ket­ing asso­ciate, Cobram Estate

The com­bi­na­tion of late win­ter rain and good con­di­tions dur­ing the bloom has some of the state’s largest pro­duc­ers feel­ing opti­mistic.

Overall, the upcom­ing olive crop in California looks quite promis­ing,” Samantha Dorsey, the pres­i­dent of McEvoy Ranch, told Olive Oil Times. At McEvoy Ranch, the bloom is heavy, and the trees are in very good con­di­tion to pro­duce another great har­vest this year.”

See Also:2023 Harvest Updates

While Dorsey said the bloom had been late around the state, she added that weather con­di­tions were good for pol­li­na­tion and had not dam­aged the blos­soms.

Our trees are bloom­ing about three weeks later than in typ­i­cal years,” Dorsey said. Fortunately, the weather has been per­fect while the flow­ers have been open and pol­li­nat­ing: in the 70s (between 21 ºC and 26 ºC) with a light coastal breeze.”

We are cer­tainly hop­ing for a con­sis­tently warm sum­mer to help the olives catch up from their late start,” she added. The sum­mer weather will deter­mine if we har­vest dur­ing our nor­mal win­dow in November or if the late bloom will push har­vest into December.”

Andrew Sciabica of Sciabica Family Olive Oil, which has been pro­duc­ing olive oil in California since 1936, told Olive Oil Times that he also sees signs of a large har­vest after a boun­ti­ful bloom.

The bloom is a very cru­cial point in deter­min­ing the qual­ity of the crop,” he said. During that time, we did not face adverse weather such as freezes, heavy rain and hot winds, so the crop has set well.”

Emma Koefoed, a mar­ket­ing asso­ciate at Cobram Estate in Woodland, California, echoed these sen­ti­ments.

Like many farm­ers in the val­ley, we observed a delay in flow­er­ing this year,” she told Olive Oil Times. However, we are pleased to report a note­wor­thy bloom through­out the groves, sig­ni­fy­ing a promis­ing poten­tial for har­vest.”

The favor­able pol­li­na­tion con­di­tions also played a vital role in fos­ter­ing healthy crop devel­op­ment,” she added. As we con­tinue to mon­i­tor and eval­u­ate the groves, we remain opti­mistic.”

The healthy crop devel­op­ment for Cobram Estate, for­merly known as Boundary Bend, comes despite frost dam­age expe­ri­enced in the groves last year.

The groves con­tinue to exhibit remark­able resilience by direct­ing their energy towards new growth to sup­port this year’s crop,” Koefoed said. It is impor­tant to note olive trees nat­u­rally main­tain vari­able fruit pro­duc­tion, fol­low­ing an alter­nate bear­ing cycle. A poor year is often trailed by a stronger one as trees regain vigor and repro­duc­tive capac­ity.”

While spring rains pro­vided some relief from the long-term drought that has dom­i­nated California, the erratic weather may have affected some groves more than oth­ers across the state.

The boun­ti­ful rains have fully charged the soil pro­file, so we are enter­ing the sea­son with all our reser­voirs at capac­ity,” Dorsey said. This means our sur­face reser­voirs (ponds) that catch rain and runoff for sum­mer irri­ga­tion are full, and our soil, which is our largest reser­voir for water on the ranch, is at hold­ing capac­ity, too.”


Full sur­face ponds came as a stark con­trast to the sit­u­a­tion in the sum­mer of 2021 when Dorsey told Olive Oil Times the farm was short about 22 mil­lion gal­lons (83 mil­lion liters) of water.

Entering the spring with full ponds and moist soil feels like an enor­mous relief after so many years of drought,” she said.

However, Sciabica said that cool and wet weather run­ning into March had delayed the crop but not caused any major incon­ve­niences.

The bloom is a very cru­cial point in deter­min­ing the qual­ity of the crop,” he said. During that time, we did not face adverse weather such as freezes, heavy rain, and hot winds, so the crop has set well.”

Koefoed echoed the sen­ti­ment. While the wet win­ter and cool tem­per­a­tures expe­ri­enced dur­ing the early spring did delay the trees from wak­ing up,’ the extended period of rain and unex­pected snow­fall caused lit­tle dis­rup­tion com­pared to last year as the trees were already in a state of dor­mancy.”

As tem­per­a­tures grad­u­ally warm and the soil mois­ture sta­bi­lizes, the trees will respond by enter­ing an active growth phase, which includes the devel­op­ment of leaves, shoots and the for­ma­tion of flower buds,” she added.

As this phase devel­ops, the field team at Cobram Estate will spend the rest of the year pro­vid­ing the right nutri­ents and fer­til­izer to the trees to ensure max­i­mum fruit pro­duc­tion.

Despite the real­ity that farm­ers do not con­trol the weather, fruit flies or equip­ment sna­fus, California pro­duc­ers feel sev­eral things could cre­ate ideal har­vest con­di­tions.

An ideal sum­mer would entail: lots of mild and warm weather, a lit­tle morn­ing fog most days, a mirac­u­lous drop in olive fruit fly pop­u­la­tions, and no bro­ken irri­ga­tion pumps all year,” Dorsey said. Plus, tons of cus­tomers buy­ing olive oil to free up tank space for this fall’s har­vest.”

Sciabica con­firmed: We should see a good har­vest if the trees receive proper water­ing and nutri­tion.”

However, Koefoed warned that late flow­er­ing decreased the time for oil accu­mu­la­tion before the start of the har­vest.

To ensure a suc­cess­ful har­vest, our pri­mary focus will be to keep the olive trees in opti­mal con­di­tion by pro­vid­ing them with the nec­es­sary resources and care to carry out their vital func­tions,” she said. This pri­mar­ily involves deliv­er­ing ade­quate water and nutri­tion to sup­port their growth and oil pro­duc­tion.”

Overall, irri­ga­tion, nutri­tion and care are three keys to a suc­cess­ful har­vest.

One cru­cial aspect of main­tain­ing tree health and pro­mot­ing oil accu­mu­la­tion is ensur­ing the trees receive suf­fi­cient water,” Koefoed said. Adequate irri­ga­tion is vital, espe­cially dur­ing peri­ods of increased heat or dry spells.”

Custom irri­ga­tion sched­ules for each grove pre­vent water stress in the trees allow­ing them to use their energy for oil accu­mu­la­tion.

Nutrition also plays a crit­i­cal role in the devel­op­ment of a fruit­ful har­vest,” Koefoed said. We strive to imple­ment a bal­anced fer­til­iza­tion pro­gram tailed to the spe­cific nutri­ent require­ments of the olive trees, con­tribut­ing to opti­mal growth, flower devel­op­ment and ulti­mately, oil accu­mu­la­tion.”

She added that Cobram Estate fre­quently tests the soil and uses satel­lite analy­sis to deter­mine where nutri­ents are needed in the company’s best groves.

We mon­i­tor and mit­i­gate any sources of stress which can impede oil accu­mu­la­tion,” Koefoed said. This includes extremely high tem­per­a­tures, pests, dis­eases or inad­e­quate ven­ti­la­tion which can adversely affect the trees’ pro­duc­tiv­ity.”

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