Article Last Updated: Saturday, Nov 12, 2005 - 09:27:29 pm PST
A Wealth of Walnuts -- Solano Growers Breaking Harvest Records
By Christine Cubé
FAIRFIELD - Solano County's fastest-growing crop is breaking records across the state in what agricultural officials are calling the biggest-ever walnut harvest.
From September through November, walnut growers in the state - numbering at more than 5,300 - are collecting their shellful bounty.
This year, the California Agricultural Statistics Service predicts the state's walnut harvest will yield a record 340,000 in-shell tons, up from 325,000 tons harvested in 2004. The finding is based on the Walnut Objective Measurement Survey report, which was conducted between July 29 to Aug. 24.
In Solano County, officials know exactly how valuable walnuts are.
In 2004, the harvest translated into exactly $5.6 million. Walnuts ranked seventh among the county's top million-dollar crops and alone took up almost half of the dedicated fruit and nut acres in Solano County - 7,167 acres of the county's 16,235 acres.
County and farm bureau officials all are saying it's going to be a real bumper crop this year, although they added it's premature to talk specifics about 2005 walnut numbers.
“We'll publish those stats in the spring time,” said Jerry Howard, Solano County agricultural commissioner.
Solano County's million-dollar crops
Nursery stock $43.6 million
Cattle and calves $26.2 million
Alfalfa $22.6 million
Tomatoes, processing $18.9 million
Milk, market $13 million
Grapes, wine $10.2 million
Walnuts $5.6 million
Corn, field $5 million
Wheat, irrigated $4.4 million
Sheep and lambs $4.3 million
Source: Solano County crop and livestock report 2004
-- 99.9 percent of U.S. walnuts are produced in California, primarily in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys.
-- There are more than 30 varieties of commercially produced walnuts, all hybrids of the English walnut.
-- The five primary varieties are Chandler, Hartley, Serr, Vina and Payne.
-- Walnut trees bear fruit five to seven years after planting and can continue to produce walnuts for up to a century.
Source: Walnut Marketing Board and California Walnut Commission
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